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On the Coast Magazine

Busyness and Technology Robbing Us of Our Creativity and Freedom

07/03/2017 03:59PM ● Published by Paul Hunter

Gallery: Busy Busy [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

I think one of the most frequently asked questions when seeing someone we have not seen for a while is, “What are you up to?”  This is a question I have heard amongst adults, high school and even middle school kids.  The most common response?  “Oh, we have been busy.”  


Busyness has robbed us of the enjoyment of “now.”  As a generation, we have become so enthralled with scheduling every minute of the day that we don't schedule in downtime, which science has shown to be valuable to us as a person.  This trait has become us and is becoming our children.  


Child psychologists have gone on record saying we all need unplanned downtime where nothing is scheduled, thus allowing us to be spontaneous.  After talking with many adults over 40, I have concluded there is a general consensus of one thing:  we remember our childhoods of playing all day and “having” to come back inside for dinner.  We played.  We were not at practice, tournaments, recitals, or anything else that was planned, especially by someone else.   


This unplanned time allows kids to be creative, be masters of their time, develop people skills (or challenge them), and problem-solve without hovering adults around.  Wow, to be a kid again.  Kids get to be kids and adults should be adults about it, letting kids do these things to forge their way.  In this way, kids can learn to be responsible for their time and how they spend it.  If we program their entire life, what happens when the time controller is not present?  


Encourage mistakes and resourcefulness.  Go to the beach and make it easy to do so.  Pack a cooler, water, shade, towels.  Have them carry any toys they want, but have them carry what they want, not you.  You supply the ability to be there all day.  If they have to limit themselves to one or two toys, then so be it.  They might learn to repurpose a particular item rather than have to have all of the specialty items they THINK they need.  Have a sand castle contest for the biggest, even if it becomes a huge pile of sand because they went for size, not form.  Let them work outside the box.  As they get older you can require a bridge or some number of towers.  It might be time for YOU to think outside the box.


This unplanned time is not intended to be time dulling our brain on a computer or on social media (which science is proving more and more to be detrimental to our brains and those of our children).  Unfortunately, it’s the easy thing to do.  Your child is crying?  Please don't just hand them your phone as if you couldn't be bothered.  You're training them right then and there how to placate themselves with technology.  Interact with them.  Kids need human interaction; they need your undivided interaction so they can learn how to exist in society and around other people.  Glued to a screen doesn't cut it.  


Do you need more motivation to encourage your kids to play freely?


In “The Decline of Play and the Rise of Psychopathology in Children and Adolescents” by Peter Gray, Research Professor of Psychology at Boston College, Gray presents a review of research showing a correlation between the decline of free play in developed nations and the rise of depression, suicide, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism in children, teens, and young adults.


Maybe we ought to let our kids be kids, solve some of their own problems and not just participate in the world we, as adults, have created.  Imagine that we don’t know everything, especially about being a kid.  My guess is that the years have functioned as a horrible filter for some of us that causes us to forget about our youthful years.  Did you have to grow up too fast and miss out on some of those years?  Don’t take it out on your kids.  Jump in WITH them and experience it now.  There is still time.


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