Spotlight On: Boundaries, Basics and Boredom

2 September 2022


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 2 September, 2022

In a School with a smorgasbord of cocurricular, organised activities known to benefit cognitive, physical, cultural and social development, it may seem incongruous to suggest that it is beneficial for young people to be bored. Yet most would agree that ‘downtime’ is also necessary, especially downtime on digital devices.

In Raising Your Child Online, a webinar presented by Dr Kristy Goodwin to Queenwood and Mosman Preparatory School parents last week, Dr Goodwin explained that she sees screens as a welcome addition to the family home when used for learning and relaxation. She advocates not for ‘digital amputation’ but for planning its use and establishing a balance of ‘more green, less screen’. When managing digital devices, she recommends the three Bs - boundaries, basics and boredom.

  • Boundaries: As adults (with fully formed brains!), it is our responsibility to set boundaries in young people’s lives. Parents/carers should be in the pilot’s seat in managing digital devices,  setting limits and establishing healthy digital habits. Goodwin implores us to consider: When are your no-go tech times? Where are the no-go tech zones? How are they being used? Who are they being used with?
  • Basic Needs: We know instinctively when the basic needs of our kids are ‘out of whack’. We know when they haven’t had enough fresh air, socialising, nutrition, sleep and play. Young people have basic, developmental needs: relationships, sleep, language, physical movement, play, nutrition and executive functioning skills. Goodwin uses a jar analogy – screen time should not push out of the jar any of their basic needs.
  • Boredom: Dr Goodwin sees a problem when digital devices become ‘entertainment’ for young people because young people need non-organised time to unleash creativity. Being in the cockpit, parents/carers can say no to screen time. So many young people have lost the ability to use their imagination because the adults in their lives believe they need entertaining. Goodwin argues that we owe it to our children to allow them to become bored so they can dig deep and tap into their imagination. When we become bored, we enter the default mode of thinking – otherwise known as daydreaming. We solve problems and create solutions in this state. White space and being unplugged is vital for our physical, mental health and productivity. Pushing through boredom can unleash creativity.

As a motivator toward change, boredom can lead to new ideas, reflection, and creativity. It can fuel the search for novelty, including setting a new goal or embarking on a new adventure. In an age of  information overload, allowing yourself to step away from screens can also help alleviate stress.

The temptation is to use a device to alleviate the frustration we feel when bored but let’s not look to devices for entertainment to the detriment of creativity and imagination.

How can we overcome boredom and use it positively to unleash creativity?

Some suggestions:

  • Basic craft materials – boxes, cardboard tubes, paper, drawing tools, scissors, tape
  • Dress-up clothes
  • Create a shop/library
  • Blankets/covers (to make a cubby)
  • An assortment of stationery
  • Go for a walk, bike or scooter ride
  • Explore a garden, build, climb and swing
  • Go to the park
  • Explore and/or play a musical instrument
  • Invite a friend over to enjoy some activities together
  • Encourage cooking/baking sewing, drawing, painting, sketching, reading, photography, knitting, crochet
  • Paint stones
  • Construction games
  • Puzzle making
  • Diary/letter writing
  • Books and floor cushions
  • Learn a poem
  • Sing along to a song
  • Playdoh
  • Nature collection
  • Beach/water/fishing activities
  • Sandpit

Perhaps we can also relieve ourselves of any guilt we may feel when our children complain of boredom – as Ms Stone has previously argued. If we don’t solve the ‘problem’ of boredom for them, their own creativity will quickly come into play!