Tip #24 – Beware of Too Much Free Time for Kids in Screen Time Culture

Nov 16

Too much free time can be too much of a good thing according to a new study in the Applied Research in Quality of Life Journal that was recently covered in the.  Findings (after questioning 1200 high school students) indicated that materialism and compulsive buying are a negative result of having an over-abundance of thumb-twiddling time (and perhaps an increase in screen time?) Boredom, it appears, does not always open doors to the imagination but can be a fuel for consumerism.

While this isn’t technically a “tech” tip for hair-pulling parents overburdened with the task of wrenching their children away from an animated rectangle (of various sizes), it is relevant given that most kids’ free time directly correlates to their screen viewing time. In my house, particularly, computer time is typically awarded after completion of certain tasks: homework, piano practice, emptying the trash, vows to be silent. In other words, when their time no longer is entrusted to adult-enforced regiments, they’re free to do as they wish. Unfortunately for most parents, today’s kids will often select an activity that involves a screen when they have nothing left to do.

This quick access to video is likely one of the culprits causing the unhappy results of too much free time for the modern adolescent. Boredom that translates into mindful activities such as reading books, playing ball in the park, or pursuing a hobby like jewellery-making or woodworking isn’t going to turn a kid into a perennial mall rat. However, if such activities are trumped by television viewing, surfing the web, or video gaming, the influence to conform according to the standards of advertisers, brands, and “cool kids” on sitcoms is ever-present. I have no intention of railing against the advertising machine, after all, they’re just trying to earn the profits they need to flourish as businesses.  As a parent, however, my bigger concern is my child’s happiness.  And, a screen that entertains is also a vehicle to pressure people to seek some retail therapy.  A kind of therapy, it turns out, we’d be better to live without.

While it’s not news that spending too much time in front of a screen is no recipe for happiness, parents should also consider just how much time their kids are spending doing, um, nothing. Filling some of that extra time with sports, clubs and lessons will actually make them happier. I guess I should pat myself on the back, then. I’d always thought that when my kids complained about all the time they spend practicing piano and doing homework was an indication of their misery when, in fact, they’re happy as can be. Now, if only I could convince them of that.

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