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Let Children Get Bored Again (nytimes.com)
419 points by glassworm 82 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 171 comments



There are two separate issues:

A. 1,000 ft view: drugs are bad. Both chemical drugs and electronic entertainment that is engineered to be addictive. Light weight drugs in small doses are less bad: 90s vs now.

B. 50,000 ft view: the real problem. When rats are put in normal laboratory settings they choose drugs over food and water if given the choice. Most of our research on addiction is based on this. In a study where the rats were placed in a healthy environment they chose food and water over drugs.

We live and raise our children in the former. Humans evolved to be raised in an environment much closer to what is happening over in Germany with Forests kindergartens https://youtu.be/31eBV6ZTNDQ


Personally I think the issue is, and I struggled for a long time to articulate this... escape.

I have always struggled with a cluster of issues... too much tv, too much internet, for a period in college binge drinking, overeating... the big "aha!" was that I was engaging in these behaviors to escape reality.

We live in a unique time where if you don't like the reality you're in, you can step into another. Society has rightfully developed stigmas against other harmful behaviors. But the issue is a level deeper.

For the first time in history, we can "escape" or "drop out" or whatever you wish to call it without chemicals. It's a powerful urge... after all, if you have a limited time on earth, and the world's information at your fingertips, it becomes extremely tempting to just tune out... everything.


Books were an escape vehicle before TV, movies, and games.


Sure, but doesn't it work pretty differently? With books, you're just given words and your brain has to fill in the gaps and actually do some work. With video games and movies, your brain is directly stimulated; shown what to see and hear.


I know this is the common argument, but I'm not entirely convinced. when I was a kid, the graphics were quite primitive by today's standards, but playing the games at that age felt like stepping into a vivid other world. playing as an adult, I just see a bunch of geometry with shitty lighting while I run around clicking on HP sponges.

I wouldn't say that video games are quite as stimulating as reading a good book, but I think we underestimate how much our imagination works to "fill in the gaps" to make games feel real and rewarding.


And how we used to think whatever the latest in graphics was, was oh so realistic and amazing!

I played MUD’s for a few years when I was younger and in hindsight it was amazing: while the writing wasn’t typically as good as a book, you still filled in the world and characters with your imagination and it was both interactive and social. I still have some vivid memories of it that are as clear as if it had been a modern game or movie, despite that in reality I was reading text.


It's interesting, but I think games have taken a significant backstep over the past few years in terms of RPG's in many ways.

The issue for me nowadays is that AAA studios seem to demand certain things. One of which, is fully voiced dialogue.

This sounds good, people talking lines to me is great right? But the problem is, each of those lines costs time and money, and adds rigidity around what can be changed as you need to get voice actors in and pay money, take time to record the lines, sequence the lips, etc. etc.

Having a purely text based experience (see the character, but have the conversation be purely in text) allows for better variability, imagination on your behalf and way more dialogue because they aren't constrained by time and money as much.

I can't remember who said it, but It puts me in mind of the concept that sometimes the most creative things happen when given the least tools to work with - if you give an artist all the tools to work with in the world, they can often find it harder to focus. Give constraints and creativity is given bounds and scope to work with. It's a bit counter-intuitive but I really think it can be true.


> fully voiced dialogue

Yeah, I 99% hate this[1]. Doubly if it's from the person I'm supposed to be playing - let me have my own thoughts about what's going on!

[1] There are some games which have excellent voiced dialogue as part of the world building, e.g. Albino Lullaby


There is a school of though that the character you're playing should not be voiced (or not even respond textually), precisely because the player cannot then imprint their own thoughts on the character, because the voice/actions/emotions/whatever don't match with that of the human player.


I love fully voiced dialogue in some games, if it’s done well it can really help with telling a story, but in more freeform roleplaying games it definitely detracts from the fantasy that’s playing out in my imagination as it means I can’t imprint my own feelings of what characters are feeling. MUDs were definitely the pinnacle of that for me, especially when you played with people who took their fictitious roles seriously and added freeform scenarios that weren’t hard coded into the game, through a shared acknowledgement that what other players invented became a real part of the fiction even though it wasn’t recognised by the software simulation.


imo, the Witcher 3 is an example of very well done fully voiced dialogue. I almost never wanted to skip through it. I think it fits in this game because you are playing as an already fleshed out character, Geralt. like you said though, sometimes the player character is meant to be more of a blank slate that you fill in yourself. in KOTOR, the player character is essentially a blank slate, as you literally have no memory of who you are and an important part of the story is that you decide who you will be (villain or savior). in this game, the unvoiced player dialogue was the right design choice.


I agree. Like you are saying, I find voices dialogue similar to preset player characters. If the game is telling a story about a specific character (and, super importantly, spends a great deal of effort on deep and meaningful character building), then having a voiced or preset player character can really make the experience great. Geralt is such a character, he has a lot of depth and a lot of history and it’s a great experience to get to explore that.

If, on the other hand, the game has little or weak character building around the player character then please let me create my own character (let me choose gender, looks and name) and don’t have the character voiced at all — let me play the character I like to imagine they are instead.


You can make it work, but it's crammed into absolutely everything now just because you CAN.


Some MUDs back in the day had combat and skill systems as complex as any modern MMOs. They were the precursor to MMORPG.


We're off topic here, but there are still plenty of MUDs around, and they're still as good or better.

Check out https://www.mudconnect.com/index.html


Absolutely. They were mechanically quite advanced in some cases and the roleplay heavy ones had some of the most immersive experiences I’ve had in any game.


Games used to need your mind to fill in gaps too. Crude limited capabilities of pre 16 bit era made it somehow impressionist and symbolic. Today it's all faux-reality. Amazing technically really.. but not so on the other side of the paddle.

Also the pacing. There are games that weren't action based, and required contemplation (shadow of colossus for instance, there were a few others). There were also sim city like games, or flight simulators that required some focus.

Even games like Resident Evil, they did capture your mind like a book a bit. That said a book requires a lot more than a game.


A book makes you use your own imagination. Video games take the bulk of that work away from you so it's easier initially but imagination can easily outdo the games in the medium to long term (if you persevere)


This reminds me of the very typical discussion about the value of mathematics and the "descendants": physics, chemistry etc. :-)

If the ultimate purpose is to "do some work", movies and videogames definitely do:

- movies require (in theory) around 90 minutes of undivided attention, which is definitely "work" (how many people can watch an entire movie without peeking at the phone?); additionally, they can be intellectually and/or emotionally stimulating - videogames are essentially, in general, structured challenges, which is "work" again: analytical, creative, reactive...

I'd say that quality of an escape, if we want to set this concept, could be better defined by the human experience added by it.

Alcohol doesn't really add any valuable experience (assuming one even remembers it).

Books, in average, may give the most valuable experience because they may be the most selective medium (due to the attention required).

TV, in average, may give the least, for the opposite reason.

Movies are definitely an infinite human capital. There's lots of garbage, of course.

I find hard to make any generalization about video games, as it's a very diverse medium. Farmville and co. "fare" in the ranks of trash TV, however, games like "Papers, Please" make a very significant experience.


Where do games like Screeps, Dwarf Fortress, RimWorld, Factorio, or Minecraft feature? Leveraging (or demanding) the user's creativity and construction to meaningfully drive gameplay (though how meaningfully varies) is like opening an extra dimension compared to games where you're only meant to respond to stimuli relatively simply, like Papers, Please.


Dwarf Fortress is a helluva thing, good reference. I'd argue that's just as demanding as any IRL project and it requires planning, forethought, and myriad other detail and macro oriented skills.


"Papers, Please" has a significant intellectual (/moral) meaning; it's extremely reductive to characterize it as a game "where you're only meant to respond to stimuli relatively simply".


I pretty much my ability to easily navigate arbitrary rule sets to games of all types played as a child. And it's a very nice skill to have. After all, code and APIs are just some arbitrary rules...


I think it’s more a question of in which direction you do the work.

Reading a book is a bottom up process. A movie/comic is top bottom: from visual/sound info you parse what’s happening, characters motives, what direction everything is going.

People argue the top-> down approach is “lazier”, but hearig from viewers who couldn’t understand the point of even simple movies, I don’t think it’s true, it’s just that people who don’t “get it” are left on their own as there is a forced timeline.

In that sense, video games bring two major mechanics to the table:

- interactivity: you need to understand what’s going on and take action to move forward. Also you can assume your choices.

- retryability: you can redo any part you didn’t get, the mechanic is baked into the game where for a movie it’s a PITA. I see my kid playing RPG and asking again and again NPC for info, because he didn’t get it the first time. It’s a very powerful mechanism.


This is true, it takes effort to visualize, but it becomes automatic over time. You don't think about everyday language. You just use it. Same with books.

Take the time to develop this skill when you aren't in need of escapism and you can reap the benefit when you are in dire need.

There are other benefits as well. Developing your visualization skill is one that benefits pretty much everything in life. Visualization greatly aids learning and understanding.


With video games you at least develop hand-held coordination, and in some, tactical skills. As for movies I'm not so sure, but for people who critique or study them it's at least beneficial.

hand-eye


Crucially, books are non-interactive, they don't give you feedback.

Books are in the same class as movies and TV. Games are a different class.


I agree with you entirely - books are escapism. But there are levels of escapism - you would agree that a book is better than heroin, right? If so, you agree that there is a hierarchy. Reading teaches a lot of useful skills, such as, you know, reading.

Then there is the fact that both video games and books can teach, but there are diminishing returns. When I first read Snow Crash and Neuromancer, they taught me a lot of things. Now there is virtually nothing I can draw from most sci-fi.


Rationally, fictional evidence is useless.

Imaginatively, fiction and imagination are the only things that stimulate to push the boundaries in science and tech.


Fiction isn't evidence (except, perhaps, of basic plausibility, which is a pretty low standard). It does, however, contribute to hypothesis generation; the hypotheses thus inspired by fictional sources can then be tested out in the real world.


Books are so low on addiction and very high on interesting stimuli.

for some reason, solid matter full of glyphs in our hands captivate the mind differently than other medium / formats.

I tried a lot of things, every time I get a book I feel different and most importantly better. Coming from a not avid reader.

#2cents


Do reading books on e-readers, tablets, and phones have the same effect? How about static websites with long-form text?


That's what I cryptically meant by 'lots of things'. As an ex-abstractophile-nerd I used to think that information is information, whether it's on paper, lcd or e-ink.... I read GNU manuals in emacs or in terminal so I'm not craving for aesthetics or high res.

Turns out all mediums have subtle contexts that change the experience (at least personally [thus anecdotally]).

LCD: fatigue, luminosity, potential for distraction because you're using a machine, battery, other apps

Tablet: similar to above although maybe less so (bought a kindle 7, sadly the sub-HD resolution was another flaw)

e-ink: never tried, I wish I could but never did so far. I expect it to be a bit better than the rest

A book is dead. It requires nothing beside a bit of light. Maybe the physicality of pages make my brain focus differently, maybe touching, maybe the fact that it's dead and it won't move weirdly, change. The very high resolution helps.

All of this is super fluffy, but I value my opinion (I was surprised by it too) just enough to say it out loud. It doesn't imply you can't enjoy and learn efficiently with a digital machine but I'm sure it won't be the same as reading a book.


I'm not the parent, but I agree with him completely and for me books on a screen and web articles don't have the same effect, even if it's great writing. For me nothing can beat a paperback.


Yup and I frequently used them as such. Of course these days that seems tame, but there was a time when the printed word probably spelled the downfall of society for some group too.


As was poetry. All storytelling can be viewed as an escape. But it can also be viewed as a powerful way to reimagine the world.


It is the dose, not the substance, that makes the poison.


It's actually both. And also whether intake is repeated.

The platitude is completely wrong.


Fine. But we're both saying the person I was responding to is wrong. Which was the actual point.


This is my exact feeling. The problem is upstream: the world that needs escaping.


Society has been slowly but surely working at decoupling everything. Every problem gets a ~solution. You don't need to depend on people directly, it's easier than having to deal with them. You don't have to deal with physics, put VR goggles and enjoy unlimited retries at shooting preys.

I think it's a bit sad.


Very well put, and I agree with your general analysis.

The question is: how exactly is this a "bad thing"?


Specifically, the philosophical belief of dependent origination indicates practicing one thing here may lead to "things" happening there: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prat%C4%ABtyasamutp%C4%81da

The argument goes that "dropping out" may be linked to a causal effect of which of which we are not yet aware.

For example: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/02/08/why-young...


Thank you for the link to the Wikipedia page. Makes for good Sunday reading :)

If am tracking everything right, then an (albeit simple) description of dependent origination is that we can't necessarily predict the unknown-unknowns of our actions. If so, I don't see how dropping out (in the Timothy Leary sense) is any different from other phenomena that cause unforeseen consequences?

Using your example as my example, that Politico piece presupposes that increased sex ala the sexual revolution is itself an altogether "good" thing, and that the effects of Netflix et al is impacting that previously held ideal in a negative manner. At the risk of sounding contemptuous, I quite frankly don't see what the big deal is, and it reads more akin to vacuous hand-wringing.

Do you have another example of what you are trying to describe? Perhaps I missed the forest for the trees in your above link and haven't approached the topic in good faith.


Sorry for the delay.

It's sorta like "equal and opposite reaction". Push and pull. Up and down. Without "up", there is no "down".

When we do new things, we aren't really sure what the effects or the reach of the correlated/opposite/related effects will be. Going "up" and elevator has simple ramifications. You will need to go "down" again. This is a type of "karma", when your decision making process gets involved. I think of karma as more "work you do" than "shit you've brought upon yourself". It can be good or bad.

With something more complicated, many things may occur all at once and not necessarily be obvious in their origins. Polar vortexes, for example, may be caused by the Earth heating up and disrupting the magnetic field which keeps the cold contained. At least that's what Faraday thought.

You are right about pointing to challenges in predicting unknown-unknowns. In science, we typically avoid those discussions. In other philosophical approaches, we identify them with something beyond our conscious awareness.

Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism have been dealing with these concepts for a long time. It's interesting to see how technology and those thoughts are converging.


Did you fix that behaviour? I'm in the same boat currently.


A bit of a nitpick here but I think "Light weight drugs in small doses are less bad: 90s vs now." has a [citation needed]. In my (anecdotal, personal) experience, a heavy weight, sporadically used drug is much more effective than a light weight ones, especially for mental issues.

My heuristic for this is the following:

1. All psychic drugs have a main effect + side effect.

2. The benefit comes from changing your baseline mental "loops". This can happen slowly, or quickly, but requires something to be different. [citation needed]

3. Main effects can be, when taken to excess, if not necessarily _fun_, then certainly _different_, or new.

4. The industry is averse to their drugs being fun, because it leads to "abuse". So they only sell drugs where the main effect is small.

5. This means that most psychic drugs provoke a small change to baseline mental state, and (proportionally) large changes to everything else. So you feel a _little_ better, maybe, and very constipated/sleepless/irritated/whatever.

6. The ideal treatment would actually be super powerful drugs, like psilocybin, ketamine, MDMA, or LSD, taken very sporadically and in controlled (but not clinical) settings. Of course, this will never happen because of point (4).


> When rats are put in normal laboratory settings they choose drugs over food and water if given the choice. Most of our research on addiction is based on this. In a study where the rats were placed in a healthy environment they chose food and water over drugs.

I'm reminded of the mouse "utopia" experiment, and how people somehow find it surprising or insightful that animals left stuck in an overcrowded cage indefinitely with no entertainment and nothing to do gradually go insane.


Mostly overcrowded and unstructured, breaking nursing socialization behavior of mice via massive interruption of strangers walking through nests and huge noise.

(See later experiment with "rooms" for mice.) The strain of mice used was relatively aggressive too.

Of course, not quite applicable to humans or even apes.


> When rats are put in normal laboratory settings they choose drugs over food and water if given the choice.

We've shown that cocaine addiction can be mitigated or altogether avoided by enough positive social interaction.

When the benefits that cocaine would provide to the dopamine system are already present from other external sources, the rat is much less likely to self-administrate cocaine to "self-medicate", and this is likely further modulated by if medicating inhibits the rat's ability to continue getting dopamine from other sources.

It's clear that psychosocial health is a huge factor in avoiding addiction.

Another huge factor more relevant to today's era is post-capitalist existentialism, which we can't really test with lab rats but I'll be damned if it doesn't make me want to erode away inside a warm fuzzy ball of artificial pleasure sometimes.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-018-0246-6


Forest Kindergartens remind me of a movie I quite liked, which others might find interesting: Captain Fantastic (2016) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3553976/


The more I think about the "boredom is good" concept, the more I suspect it's flawed. Bored kids get into trouble, especially as they get older. By 18, a very bored kid left to chance will have found an unhealthy outlet like drinking or property theft.

We have a lot of screens now. But it's what one sees and does with the screen that matters. There is an element of media as pollution in this, but it's contrasted against our notion of "the classics". We always end up with a youth that is a mixture of the misspent and the classics.


Bored kids who are always bored and have no outlets to stem that boredom often get into trouble. I think that's pretty well known and correlated. It's a picture that's been seen in countless deprived areas. Some will make their own outlets that might include drink or crime. Others will make their own constructive outlets.

I doubt that degree of chance is what anyone is advocating. Instead a little dead time, or space to be bored every day or two is often the spark for something creative. Make a Lego model, draw a picture, go out on bikes for an hour, kick a football round the back garden, etc etc.


“By 18, a very bored kid left to chance will have found an unhealthy outlet like drinking or property theft.”

Do you have some statistics to back up this claim, along with a comparison against teens who are not bored?


You’re trying to analyze raising children scientifically, and I think that’s impossible.

You can never measure bored teens against non-bored teens in any meaningful way. No parent will want to, or be able to participate in a scientific study to tests the effects of boredom on their teens. What would that even look like? Randomize parents in two groups, and have them change their parenting in prescribed ways? No parent would agree to that.

Even if you did that study, and parents didn’t fail to follow the instructions, the results wouldn’t be applicable. Humans are different. What works for one teen may be counterproductive for another. You could get an average impact of 0, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t impact on a per-teen basis.

And of course, you don’t even know what outcome you want to optimize for. Is it grades? Number of friends? Salary at age 35?

Raising kids is (for better or worse) completely unscientific. Discussions are based in anecdotes and personal experience, not statistics.


“You’re trying to analyze raising children scientifically, and I think that’s impossible.”

You lost me already. You are flippantly dismissing everyone in developmental psychology and related fields with no justification.


The point is that they are individuals and one size fits all is doomed to failure. Any findings will be coarse and easy to confuse cause and effect. Just because children active in sports and music programs may be healthier and happier doesn't mean forcing the kid into both will improve things - by all means expose the kids to it, encourage them and let them pursue it but forcing a square peg into a round hole is good for no one.

There were worries that powerlines were harming children because children with homes near power lines had worse performance in schools. Analysis found that the mechanism for the "harm" was lowered property values - parents who lived near powerlines considered unsightly had fewer resources and it reflected in their children's academic performance.

A pure statistical approach on an individual level is like trying to have a full term baby in one month. Trying to actually raise children involves small N numbers with divergent starting states and control is impossible. You won't raise your second child in the same environment as the first - the year is different, you are different and there is the addition of an older sibling.

You can figure out great harms and benefits but anything else is shrouded in enough noise that attempting it at that level is practically superstition.


I am not advocating for a pure statistical approach.

The parent of my first comment was making broad claims about the effects of boredom without justification. I dont think the assertion has any value without some good evidence. I was therefore providing the parent comment an opportunity to Contribute something more substantive than armchair speculation.


I don't think I was being flippant. That's the thesis of my comment, and the rest of it is supporting points.


It also isn't new at all - the puritans had similar ideas that took them from ruling England after ousting the king to what may be snarkily summarized "We prefer nobility over these self-rightious fundamentalists wankers."

It is a toxic "your misery is good for you because it flatters my ego" attitude mixed in with nostalgia for a past that never was.

Being able to deal with boredom productively is useful but that doesn't make boredom a virtue or a good way to promote it any more than being able to stay sane in maximum security with only a library makes isolation a virtue and solitary confinement a good way to promote sanity and literacy.


The rat park study found that a good environment did make opioids less attractive, but also found (and downplayed, dishonest science) that rats in the good environment still did prefer opiods to water when the opioids didn't have a bitter taste.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Park


Mindfulness and mediation are great for disengaging from vices and building resilience to addictive triggers and compulsive thinking.

I wish someone taught me mediation to rebalance my thoughts as early as high school so I could be more introspective and have more control over my insecurities/tendency to think compulsively.


IMO, meditation should be taught even to really young kids (say, 4 years old upwards). I imagine they would benefit just as much.

Interestingly, some alternative education systems seem to have such an approach. In the waldorf/steiner system (at least this is what I was told), the early years are supposed to be about learning personal discipline and how to work with others. With reading/writing not taught until later (age 7). The idea being that the kids will learn much quicker if they can concentrate and focus on their work. Makes a lot of sense to me.


IMO, we should all become monks (if you live in Theravada country its tradiion) at age 20 and then give up. Why? You have great experience, and no one obligees you to stay. You can stay for a few months (Like countries Vietnam, Cambodia etc)


Some friends of mine and their girls moved to Germany for 2 years and talk non-stop about these schools. They say it’s the thing they miss the most.


That forest kindergarden looks awesome. Too bad it's a liability hell in basically all western countries. Freedom-oriented laws would solve a lot of problems.


I'm in Australia. My 6yo son attends the same primary school I did 30+ years ago. They now have a "nature play" area with softball-sized rocks and 6' long baseball-diameter logs that the kids use in breaks to build forts, help climb things, etc. They use the rocks to crush things up or build structures in a dry creek. The hover-parent in me can see a million ways it will end in disaster, but aside from a bloodied fingernail and some scrapes, I haven't heard of anything too bad in the 12ish months he's been there. It's a definite trend here in designing play spaces for children.


Yes, you could be liable for harm if you do not supervise the kids well. Other than that, the activities are not especially dangerous.

Realistically, an unattended playground is vastly more dangerous. Or giving scissors to kids. (Including allegedly kid safe models.)


"liability hell" in the sense you mean is pretty much a US concept.


Its actually not. Only in the US.


> When rats are put in normal laboratory settings they choose drugs over food and water if given the choice. Most of our research on addiction is based on this.

No, it's not.

A lot of popular discussion of addiction is, but that's a very different story.


B: Please bring these studies. If you do misquote the so called "mouse paradise" experiment, please read the original in detail and also further work of the author.


This subject is prone to so many reasoning traps.

- The "problem" is with the current generation of children, so their future character is pure speculation.

- The media consumed is seen as new. This means people believe (rightly or wrongly) it affects children very differently. Paradoxically, these same people claim to know how it affects them, despite it being new.

- People are tempted to argue using childhood memories, despite being a child with limited understanding, the mutation of memories over time, and the limited sample size of other kids you knew. Those other kids were also only kids who knew you, meaning they weren't asocial and likely went outside.

This isn't to say we can never know. Just that disciplined experiments are necessary to avoid all these subjective pits.


> Just that disciplined experiments are necessary to avoid all these subjective pits.

Disciplined experiments would require decades to learn how new media influence development of a child. Disciplined experiments require people subjects and a big moral no-no in the most cases. It is easier (maybe it is the only way for our society) to just watch what happens and to setup a small scale experiments to distinguish causes from effects.

While we are designing experiments children grow and become adults. When we finish with experiments the world would be the different place and the only our scientific result would be an ability to explain what happened in the past. (It would be a limited ability, because no one would be able to replicate our experiments and to confirm our findings.)

So I agree that speculations about future character of a child of current generation is a pure speculation, but it is the only way to apply brains to a current educational tasks. Alternatively we can say that a pure speculation is not good enough and do nothing, let things flow by the stream. I, personally, believe that the former way is better than the latter, even if it is unscientific.


While I agree with you in principle, there are flaws with what you are saying in my opinion.

We can't wait for a generation to have issues before we start attempting to fix big issues- yes they may be perceived and not present, but we can only do the best we can do, there are good reasons to think it is not healthy to never feel boredom, based on our own intuitive understanding of people so we make choices the best we can.

It might be the wrong choice, but it's still our best one.

Disciplined experiments would only bear out after 15 years or more so it's a bit late to wait for that. We do what we can and refine our thoughts and ideas until we do have the data, because this is an active "problem" that will have data whether we like it or not, so do the best we can now and we'll find out if we were right later.


Without evidence, it's hard to see these takes and articles as much more than "old man yells at sky about how messed up kids are" or, at best, the neutral interpretation that "kids are adapted to the world they're raised in".

I remember reading a NYTimes article that used the fact that we don't know our friend's phone numbers anymore as evidence that younger generations have deficient memories. How stupid. I live in a world where I don't need to have them memorized. It is not because I am deficient.


When my family went through hard times in High School our internet was cut. Basically every interest I had was pulled out from under me (gaming). I ended up going to the local library during this time after months of crushing boredom and reading a lot of books like the CompTIA Linux, CEH, random programming books.

I always wonder what I would be like if I didn't go through this phase at such a crucial time. It refocused me right before college and let me explore things that would otherwise have been boring.

Now that I'm doing well I can't find the same focus for things I want to learn because of all the other luxuries I have.

I can't imagine how kids that don't struggle like I did will gain that sort of clarity. Of course there are those who will just want to do those things, but I would argue that is the minority.


> I ended up going to the local library during this time after months of crushing boredom and reading a lot of books like the CompTIA Linux, CEH, random programming books

It's only happened because you were that type of person, I know a lot more high school students who went robbing cars and drinking because of their boredom, not going to libraries to read programming books.


I agree with that as well. It was the combination of me not being the type do do all of that plus being bored enough to go to the library.

I know a lot of my peers in college just couldn't hack it because they were engrossed in gaming. I might not have ended up jacking cars but I doubt I would have made it through my first 2 years of engineering if I hadn't become more interested in it than online gaming.

There is a lot of factors and every case is unique but I can't believe that never feeling that kind of boredom is healthy, if not only to find out who you really are. Maybe it would be wise to have a month of "decompression" in the wilderness or otherwise disconnected the first year before college if you are already on track to at least go to one.


If young people are robbing cars and underage drinking when they are bored, I would think the problem there is more about peer-pressure, upbringing and lack of purpose/belonging rather than boredom.

If someone is only stopped from making poor decisions due to escapism, there is an underlying issue that needs to be fixed with something deeper than not letting them get bored.


You can say the same about kids who end up as “bad examples” of media/tv influence


This article is extremely thin on actual evidence, and that's a problem, because I could take any aspect the world which has changed since my own childhood, write a similar article, and have just as much of a point as this one.

I could, for example, write about the easy availability of music, and the fact that you don't have to go to a store to buy CDs. I could take every tiny facet of CD purchasing, anticipation, and delayed gratification that I think was in some way good, and lament that kids no longer have that experience. I could completely fail to point out any possible beneficial aspects to modern music availability, and by the end of it, the uncareful reader might think that I have a legitimate point.

It seems obvious that something simply being different about how children grow up does not imply that it's worse, so there needs to be some way to distinguish legitimate causes for worry from simple alarmism. If you can't find a way to do that for your piece, I think it's fair to say that your position should simply be ignored.

Now sometimes, the scientific community does need a nudge to investigate whether something is a problem. But if you can find no hints within the current body of scientific knowledge that what you're talking about actually matters, you probably haven't found one of those cases.


You can't fully understand what something is without experiencing its absence. Boredom is the absence of interest, and it's important because it teaches you about interest.

In the same way that you can't judge how loud an always-present humming sound from an air conditioner is -- because it disappears into the background -- you can't assess how interested you are in something if interest is always present.

You don't want to do something just because it's somewhat interesting. Watching YouTube is somewhat interesting, but you clearly don't want to do that all the time. You want to do what's most interesting. And if you're unwilling to experience the absence of interest, you'll never know what that is.


My dad grew up without a TV. He hardly had any books. He and his brothers ran around town finding adventures. This is exactly the kind of childhood the author advocates for.

And yet, today, in his retirement, my dad sits in front of the TV or computer 24/7. He doesn't produce anything, he just consumes.

It's just one anecdote. But I think articles like these always receive many upvotes and clicks, only because they match many people's gut feeling. It seems right that letting kids get bored would spark creativity.

But feeling right is not the same thing as being right. Give me some argument for why I should believe these claims. Read the article again -- there's not an ounce of proof behind any of the many claims.

For every Lin Manuel Miranda there are a thousand my dads, who didn't turn their boredom into some kind of admirable creative passion. So which one is the outlier?


This article primes my confirmation bias. I used to think it was up to me to keep my son entertained or otherwise 'engaged'. One day it hit me that letting him experience boredom is probably a net positive since I won't always be around to keep things interesting and the boredom might force him to explore pursuits he otherwise wouldn't have.

As he's grown older I've restricted screen time for the same reasons (although I could probably do more in that department).

Having just read the other HN topic regarding the hikikomori, I wonder if a/the root cause isn't their use of technology to treat boredom. Perhaps not a blanket condemnation of technology - if I discover a new hobby online and can parlay that into a job/career that's a net positive - but there's certainly some aspects of tech that are going to keep someone isolated and socially atrophied.


When I was a kid I remember being bored all the time, but interestingly as an adult I am never bored. In retrospect I think a lot of it has to do with the opportunities available to me. Now if I have an idea of something I want to do or a project I want to work on I can just start doing it. When I was a kid I was limited since many of my ideas required some disposable income or a car to accomplish. Given this perspective perhaps it is somewhat your responsibility to keep your son "engaged".


As an adult, I see my "boredom" more clearly as a psychological imperative "Do Something!" combined with an existential reply "Nothing Is Worth Doing!"

The result is inaction, the fix is either identifying something, anything worthwhile (the state often points to some unresolved need), or acting anyway despite the meaninglessness (only tenable for short periods, better to rearrange one's environment to avoid such situations altogether).


Boredom breeds creativity not just in kids, but adults too.


I'm incredibly wary about opinion pieces about the current generation of kids by previous generations. Nostalgia is an incredibly powerful influence.


Especially ones that make fundamentally scientific claims, but can’t support their central thesis even with indirect evidence, so they decorate their article with noncentral mini-tangents just so they can link to some studies.

There’s a pretense of rigor here sitting on top of the same “kids are growing up different” FUD we’ve seen a million times. The mere ability to make such an observation seems to be pretty uncorrelated with there actually being a reason for concern.


I’m only reading this because I refused to get bored for even 10 seconds in an elevator. And I practiced boredom for decades before the attention economy. I have almost given up on my children.


Makes sense. Many of my best memories as a child started off with me being bored. My mother only let me have 30 minutes of screen time per day, computer and television combined, so the rest of the time I was forced to run around bored looking for things to do.


Not only that, but screen-based entertainment wasn’t available on-demand. Remember having to wait until a certain time to watch a show you wanted to watch and figuring out something else to do while waiting? Or having to wait until someone was off the phone to use the internet? I feel like another big problem related to boredom is the general lack of patience in our society today. If I can’t have it -right now- then it’s not worthwhile. Which is unfortunate, because a lot of things worth doing require both boredom and patience.


Me, too. I created a bunch of games, stories, and things as a kid because of boredom. I feel like those experiences helped shape how I think as an adult in a positive way.


The most important mission in a dad's life is make sure his kids are bored out of their minds often enough and need to come up with something to do on their own.


Our kids get limited screen time, like an hour a day on weekends and 20 min during weekdays. A lot of the rest of the time it’s “play with your sibling” although we do board games sometimes. I’ve really been impressed how my kids use their screen time. My son builds projects inspired by what he sees and our daughter sings and pretend plays. They come up with games on their own. It’s really been awesome to see how they’ve integrated it.


How old are your kids? We've been struggling with ours wrt to screen time.


> Life isn’t meant to be an endless parade of amusements. “That’s right,” a mother says to her daughter in Maria Semple’s 2012 novel, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.” “You are bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”

Interesting quote, and sadly might be out of context.

Still I couldn't disagree more. Everyone told me school time was the best part of my life, and oh the dreadful work after that. Bullshit. As soon as I was old enough to choose my own life and do what I want to do everything kinda improved and I'm exactly not really bored anymore (well, of course not 100%, but it's not worth mentioning). If you have the means and authority to choose your actions, boredom is much less of a problem than under constraints (can't go outside, can't go to a different place, can't stay up late playing games, don't have money to buy something you want to interact with...)


God damn it, another thread about boredom (one thing is that Boredom isn't boring): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10303091

I just guess its part of the human experience, very trivial. The problem is if I am teen and I am content with life (Movies, Meditation, Gratitude) I won't put a fight to build anything, or even do anything at all. I could live in my parents basement for years.

Something I learnt lately is that even the Buddhist didn't liked it: dullness is a hindrance. Try breathing meditation to alievate it, and it works. So what would be the difference between breathing until you die (with no stress) versus indulging in entertainment, projects, video games etc?


This is a very valuable article. I have the following problem with it:

I think this age has its own tragedy: On the one end one is expected to process information that comes in in at a frantic pace; on the other hand one is required to do so with the depth and thoroughness that comes from a much slower age, when the skills were acquired while processing two dimensional texts/books.

These are two modes stand in contradiction to each other.

Now this contradiction hits hardest on kids and parents: you have to prepare and train your kids for both of these modes so that they stay competitive (that is able to fulfill the requirements and challenges they will later face at work).

Lots of problems...


The parade of concerned parents writing these kinds of articles have conveniently forgotten how much TV and video games many of us consumed in 1980s and 1990s.

This stuff reads like satire:

“Rather than teach them to absorb material that is slower, duller and decidedly two-dimensional, like a lot of worthwhile information is, schools cave in to what they say children expect: fun. ”

The kids are going to be alright.


My memory of those years was that a lot of TV was shit by any standard, and most of it wasn’t aimed at kids. Sure, you had Saturday morning cartoons, and endless reruns, but it was painfully easy to be bored in front of the TV. Games were fun if you had them, but the lack of complexity and depth, alongside limited supply of them meant they got boring too.

I don’t think comparing the TV most people had in the 80’s and 90’s, and the games, to the Internet, modern MP games, and streaming “tv” is remotely fair. It might also be unwise when you consider those same decades saw an explosion of childhood obesity. A kid with an internet connection today has access to most of the world’s entertainment, either to purchase or pirate. We also weren’t able to be in 24/7 contact with each other, so boredom was very real. Even as an avid reader, I was limited by what books I owned, or were available at the library. Now there are no limits at all.

If you want to, you stay plugged in without coming close to exhausting novel entertainment, and never be bored. Maybe that will prove to be harmless, or maybe not. Maybe using a whole generation of people as lab rats for profit is unwise and unethical?


Have you observed the phenomenon of “being bored with the internet”?

I’m not sure boredom is completely satiated by novelty.

I have experienced “I’m bored” events, where I had plenty of new experiences to try if I wanted.


As an adult? Hell yes, but as a kid? Ehhh... not so much. It takes time to notice patterns in storylines, presentation, production value, and for novelty to wear off. Personally you could execute me with a 24hr loop of any Let’s Play video, but my nephew lives and breathes them.


Kids are getting bored on their phones today all the time.


Oh heck yeah. I've definitely gotten bored of reading Amazon Kindle Unlimited books, surfing the web and YouTube. That's usually when I turn my hand to creative pursuits. Writing a book is still more entertaining than reading yet another obvious shill or karma whore post.


I'm not sure I agree with you about the lack of complexity and depth thing. Perhaps I was too young to notice. But I don't recollect ever getting bored, as a kid, with computer games in the 80s and early 90s. Heck, I still play 80s and early 90s classics every so often when I've too much time on my hands. Mid-90s and later games are a different story -- good titles seem rare. (Perhaps you're older than me and snapped out of games before I did.)


Yeah, it is also interesting how they categorize the activities... apparently reading a book doesn’t count as “avoiding boredom”, but playing a video game does... why? Both are using something to entertain yourself, and it seems pretty arbitrary to distinguish between them. In fact, I am pretty sure there has been times on our history where reading fiction was treated the same way we treat watching YouTube videos today... as bad for your brain.


I think there's some truth to that, though.

As a former video game addict, I look back on my time spent gaming as largely a waste. Most of it was a compulsion, like staying up until 4am re-queuing in Dota. Or grinding some armor piece.

But I don't look back with regret on any of my time spent reading. I think most people here know what I'm talking about. Why is that?

I can think of a few guesses. Books aren't in the same category of quick dopamine releases as most (not all) games. There's an element of imagination and mental world construction in the book with even the cheapest entertainment. You're exposed to different interpretations of the world, possibly integrating the thoughts of others against your own. It also helped me write and spell.

I'd certainly categorically rank books higher than games if I had to. Though I know if you told this to my 14-year-old self, I would've made you think I only played MathBlaster and games from The Learning Company all day. "What, you think learning is bad?!"

I'm reminded of when I was at my friend's house when he kicked his son off Youtube to go outside. He thought it was the most unfair thing in the world, happy to let you know how many good educational videos there were on Youtube even though he'd just done a four hour binge of screaming Minecraft vids.

I chuckled and thought of myself at about that age. At one point I spited my mother by bringing paper and pencils outside to draw instead of playing in the street. That'll show her! Well, I now have a drawing hobby that I still practice weekly in my 30s. :)


I don't look back with regret on any of my time spent reading. I think most people here know what I'm talking about. Why is that?

Easy one. It's because this is how society teaches you to feel.

You grew up in a world where schools tell you read anything you can get your hands on. They have book fairs, summer reading contests, entire libraries full of both nonfiction and fiction. It's drilled into your from an early age how valuable reading is.

If society indoctrinated you to feel that way about video games, that's how you'd feel.

There was a time when they only books considered worthwhile were nonfiction (and maybe the Bible). If a teacher caught you with a mystery or romance book, you'd be spanked in front of the class. In those days you'd feel guilty for spending an entire day reading Jane Eyre.


Haven't books dripping with philosophy also always been considered appropriate?

But I agree. Just look at an airport book shop's best sellers: is anyone really getting anything enlightening out of a trite mystery book that they don't get from TV? We (or at least I) feel some guilt for not having read classics and then attribute the same feeling to any sort of reading. Provided it's on a dead tree.

I've spent ages reading A Song of Ice and Fire, ultimately that is just the same as time wasted on the internet or TV if what I'm valuing is time spent on self improvement. Even reading a manpage is more valuable.


I dunno, I think there are (or can be, anyway) good games and bad games, and good books and bad books.

I remember playing many hours of Sid Meier's Pirates! when I was a kid, for instance, and then my history teacher being amazed at how much I actual history I'd learned about the 17th century Caribbean. And I've read tons of pulp novels that weren't enriching in any way, they were just fun to read, empty mental calories for me in the same way it sounds like Dota was for you.

I feel like it's more fruitful to ask what makes good games and books good and bad games and books bad than it is to put all books in the "good" pile and all games in the "bad" one.


I think the same arguments you make for books could be made for video games (especially ones like minecraft): they require imagination and exposure to different interpretations of the world.

My mom also used to tell me to get off the computer and go outside, while I wanted to stay inside and mess around with the computer. 25 years later, I use those self taught computer programming skills to make a good living as a software developer.

I think the point is that it is impossible to know which 'boredom' activities will lead to creativity.


Sure, I remember thinking it was super unfair that I was kicked off the computer even though I was reading content on webdev forums. And I can certainly tell you some positive experiences that were had from making friends with guild members in World of Warcraft or building content in MUDs.

If you, as a parent, understand the difference between four hours of an iPad F2P game vs four hours of interacting with friends in Minecraft with voice-chat, you're surely in a good position to make informed decisions here instead of the frustrating "computer=bad" that a lot of kids have to deal with.

I'm not yet a parent, but I can sympathize with the idea that you want to see your kids develop well-rounded interests. You see your kid on computers and phones all day (just like adults) and don't necessarily have any insight into how they are actually spending that time (especially on their phone). At which point, it might be a relief when they pick up a book for an hour or two.


My theory is that what matters is the level of anticipation as a skill, or the distance between action and reaction that you're aware of. If you're impulsive like a kid, this distance has to be short, so you're either obedient to your parents and do what's good for you long term, or you're screwed if nobody cares.

But as an adult you can actually understand how things relate, like a mental timeline, how the things you're doing now and your decisions might play out at a later stage.


I count reading entertainment-focused books in the same category as games personally. At the end of the day, it's usually ecsapism.

Good point with learning to read and spell though, that's a plus books have over TV and games, especially for kids.


My division is between 'consumptive' activities and 'productive' activities... are you passively absorbing something someone else created or are you creating something yourself?

You need a balance of the two to have a healthy life.


It's whether there's a story line or not; playing Mass Effect is going to give you a book-like experience while DotA is just a time filler.


As is chess, and yet most people don't seem to have a problem with kids playing a lot of chess, and encourage them to go to chess clubs and compete in it.


It is a personal belief, coming from someone who played a lot of DotA2 and not as much chess.

I think there’s more value to cold calculated strategies in a simple ruleset than to spur of the moment reactions in a dynamic environment.

Then again, I was never a good DotA2 player. Maybe there’s an element I missed that’s closer to chess.


Yeah, it is also interesting how they categorize the activities... apparently reading a book doesn’t count as “avoiding boredom”, but playing a video game does... why?

- Why? Because a video game move forward at it's speed, setting, since it keeps things going regardless, it's own agenda. A book only moves forward at the speed of a child's own thinking. There's always an opportunity to stop and think when reading a book.


Every game I played as a kid moved at my speed because they were turn based or puzzle based, with the exception of WarCraft. Even many games today that are popular with kids, like Minecraft, can move at real-time speed but still be designed to be self-paced. In Minecraft, there’s always an opportunity to stop and think.


I’ve never played Minecraft but it is my understanding that you have some sort of zombies that come nighfall. If these zombies catch you without shelter, they would presumably kill you.

While this is a simple mechanic, I imagine even this small element of gameplay would turn a player towards thinking about survival rather than taking the opportunity to stop and think.


It's clear that your college course in game design is of less value, in the context of this conversation, than having actually done lots of gaming. Minecraft has a Creative Mode where all you do is build. Or explore. Or whatever you want, at your own pace. It's incredibly popular -- spend some time on YouTube looking up people's creations.

Let's remember the context. This is the quote we're talking about:

Because a video game move forward at it's speed, setting, since it keeps things going regardless, it's own agenda. A book only moves forward at the speed of a child's own thinking.

There are games that push you through like watching a movie. But even the most linear games let you make choices. Some games are slow, some are fast, some require quick thinking, some require slow calculated thinking. Some involve creativity, some involve math.

Talking about games as if they're just push you through some rigid narrative like a movie is just incredibly ignorant.


Because a video game move forward at it's speed, setting, since it keeps things going regardless, it's own agenda.

I feel like maybe you've not done much gaming? This sounds like Tipper Gore telling us about how heavy metal music inspires devil worship.


I took a college course in game design, one of the key components of said topic is ‘flow’. You want to keep the player in a state where it’s neither too hard nor too easy for them to continue playing.

Make it too hard and the player loses interest. Make it too easy, the same behavior can be observed.

If you want a game, you want to keep the player in a state of flow, if you can’t do that, the game would presumably not be well received by the players, thus not really a good game.

You achieve flow through gameplay, and if you add gameplay to any medium, does it really keep a neutral agenda? The game needs to push you in one way or the other, else it’s not really a game.


Any game design course worth its salt would cover Myst.

Tell me, in what way does Myst force an agenda in a way that a book does not?


The course did not cover Myst. Also, you make assumptions, such as the one that Myst was released when I took my game design class...


Like a book that you don't want to put down?


It really depends on the type of game you play. There are a TON of open ended 'sand box' type games that don't do any of those things (City Builders, MineCraft, Factorio, etc).


There's also even more "tons" of games that do them.


Sure, which is why my point was that you can't treat all video games as the same.


As a young kid I didn't play any action games (especially first-person shooters) at first, because I didn't have the skill to play them properly, and instead I played games from other genres, like point-and-click adventures. I think your concern is unfounded.


Sure there was such periods and plenty of books are/were trash. And when the kid did nothing but read books, parents got concerned and tried to socialize the kid and force it outside.

That being said, book readers don't yell at the rest of familly because they lost level. They don't swear into microphone. They don't hit things in frustration and while they don't like much interruptions either, generally they are able to answer basic questions.


> That being said, book readers don't yell at the rest of familly because they lost level. They don't swear into microphone. They don't hit things in frustration and while they don't like much interruptions either, generally they are able to answer basic questions.

if you let children play sports in the backyard, they are liable to do all those annoying things. also I take particular issue with the "able to answer basic questions" item. if you respect a person (even a child), you shouldn't expect them to drop what they're doing and answer whatever random question you have at the exact moment that it's convenient for you. unless it's truly urgent, why not just ask at family dinner?


It is much less of a problem on yard. There is less lashing out toward unplaying family members and they are more likely to abandon or solve frustrating situation.

See, and when they are not playing video game they are responding questions without trouble and I don't have to tiptoe around then. They are more willing to breat the game for answer or help. I don't have to treat them as someone special who can be approach only at certain times and with bigger caution then actually working adult.

I think this is honestly what they call gamer entitlement - the idea that other people are there solely as your service and you have no duty to communicate politely.


if the kids in your life are verbally attacking other family members when they lose and screaming at you when you try to ask them a question, I agree, that is unacceptable behavior.

I still take issue with the responding to questions thing though. I think your perspective shows that you don't think games are a legitimate activity, so you don't have to care about interrupting them. think about it more like football practice after school. if you are watching from the sidelines and think of a question to ask the child, are you going to just run out onto the field and demand that they respond? I think you would either wait until the end of practice or just say something like "hey, when you are finished I need to talk to you about something". this is a much more respectful way to act, and really doesn't take too much effort on your part.


Many kids play video games and don't do those behaviors, and I think the frustration level at being interrupted is even between readers and gamers.


I think that kids who don't display those behaviors are mature enough to play and it is fine.


Actually, in the late 19th and even going into earlier 20th centuries, reading books to avoid boredom did count (unless it was the Bible) in many families. Then they were afraid of radio and moving pictures, then TV, video games, etc...now its screen time on mobile devices, tomorrow we won’t worry about that anymore, but start instead worry about our kids being addicted to virtual realities....and so on.


Just because some people may have had concerns about one thing that is not necessarily justified does not then mean that we can extrapolate concerns about new technology going forward to then be defacto unjustified. I'm not sure of the entire psycho-physiological effects that books had on society, but we can see many very real negatives that are very likely causally related with our new technological pursuits. For instance there have been sharp increases in all sorts of psychological disorders, physically people are becoming grossly unfit, fertility rates are plummeting among higher income, well educated, secular individuals.

Less talked about issues are things such as a worldwide reversal of the Flynn Effect [1] in numerous developed nations. The Flynn effect is the observation that real IQ scores were increasing over time. IQ is normalized to always have a 100 mean with a standard deviation of about 15. But what Flynn found is that the mean 100 in e.g. 1920 was substantially higher than the one in e.g. 1900 and similarly moving forward. People were becoming 'smarter' over time, so much as IQ can measure. Sometime in the 1990s this trend began to reverse and quite sharply. IQ scores are dropping around the world by rates up to around 1.5 points per decade. This might not seem like much at first, but remember that a whole standard deviation is only 15 points. Imagine you are one standard deviation (15 points) ahead of the population. That means you are 'smarter' than 84% of people. Drop that just 1.5 points and you're down to only being ahead of 80% of the population. For that scale of change to be happening as a population level event, every decade, is really insane.

It could be that these are all spurious correlations that have nothing at all to do with the rise of the internet, 24/7 digital tech, social media, and so forth. However, I think that the probability of that being the case is something very close to 0%. This will probably be a self correcting problem (many of these issues are going to correlate strongly against successful reproduction) but it'd be much more pleasant if we could resolve this without going full darwin on ourselves.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect


The Flynn countereffect is rife with speculation and motivated reasoning.

It's quite possible that the Flynn effect was "gaming" IQ scores by introducing education and basic nutrition to society at large. And the reduction of average IQ stores (reported in Norway and Denmark) was caused by immigration of less healthy refugees and people downplaying their own IQ to avoid military service.

Finally, high IQ is in no way required for reproduction, as the thousands of years of survival before the Flynn countereffect clearly shows


Besides, it's too reductionist to compare them that way.

It entirely depends on what kind of books you're reading vs kind of games playing vs kind of videos watching.

Every medium has content that can be placed on a spectrum ranging from trash to nutritious.


Lol, I still remember my grandmother rolling her eyes at me reading Stephen King books as "serialized trash" when I was in my preteens during the summer months, while there was nothing else to do as she didn't believe in television.


Hah, same story here. Stephen King books totally made middle school and high school bearable for me.

The fact that every public library and used bookstore usually had over a dozen to pick from sure helped too.


This. I cannot agree more. I grew up in China when there were no video games. I loved reading fiction books but my teacher strictly forbade it for the similar reason we forbid our kids to watch youtube these days.

Now in Canada, my son's English class requires reading of many novels ...


TV in the 80s/90s was limited to a handful of channels. Now you have unlimited channels with YouTube, Netflix et al. Also gaming in the 90s was you'd play one game till the end. Today kids (and adults) jump in true adhd style between the ~100 games they got for free from the app store. Rarely finishing a game till the end.

As a kid I remember having to create my own games and toys using nature (sticks, stones, etc). Today kids get handed a toy and they play. Not much thought is given to creation just consumption. Same with TV/entertainment media.

So comparing the old days to new days is a misnomer.

One thing that's been known for a long time is that boredom breeds creativity. Hence why folks go on sabbaticals, walks etc... when your mind is constantly consumed consuming it doesn't have time to create. And these patterns lead to consumer habits. On the kids front most parents have seen what happens to their kids when they over consume media. Idiocracy (the movie) nailed this issue well.


As a kid I remember having to create my own games and toys using nature (sticks, stones, etc). Today kids get handed a toy and they play

Actually my kid gets handed a forest. He chops trees down to get sticks, which he turns into forts and weapons and vehicles and things you've never dreamed of. Then he writes code to make them do things.

Playing with physical things is great. Playing outside is great. But you guys have a very narrow view of what digital media is like these days.


> Rarely finishing a game till the end.

Today's games don't have an "end". They have a journey.

But seriously... can you blame game companies?

How many millions are made by one-and-done games? Even block busters the likes of Final Fantasy and Zelda?

How many millions are made by never-ending games like Team Fortress, Clash of Clans, Bubble Bobble, etc?

Game companies are rewarded for not having an end.


> The parade of concerned parents writing these kinds of articles have conveniently forgotten how much TV and video games many of us consumed in 1980s and 1990s.

One of the great things about growing up in the UK in the '80s is that there were only four television channels, and they were all a bit rubbish (we got a fraction of the cartoons the US did, and our local children's programmes were often extremely dull). I did watch TV, but there was usually nothing worth watching on, so i had no choice but to go and do other things - read, draw, make things, try and program a computer, etc.


I grew up in the US, but I had a similar limitation because my parent's house was in a ravine. Eventually in my tweens I wired an antenna up on the roof (my room was in the attic) and was able to capture a handful of signals, but changing the channel involved climbing out on the roof to adjust the antenna, so it was not convenient. I definitely credit this with stoking my interest in computers and other hobbies. The neighbor kids had cable and they never seemed to do anything else.


Unless you were in a big media area like NY/LA most of the country had 4-5 stations (CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, then Fox) of varying reception quality.

Cable's (and satellite TV in more remote regions) 40, then 100, then 100s of channels were the boom in channel surfing. When you can flip between all the channels in <15sec there's not a lot of reason (dopamine boost) to keep flipping. Commercial breaks were shorter and more simultaneous as well.


When I was growing up in the 90s we had 2 hours of kids TV programming after school and that was it. It's a far cry from the "everything on demand" culture we have today.

You can see the dopamine hits while the kids constantly hit "next" on YouTube - like a gambler at the slots.

I know how a "think of the children!" article comes across but when you dig into the neuroscience it's all rather concerning.

The kids will be alright - but what state will their neurons be in?


That's roughly what we duplicated via router restrictions, open access at weekend. Several of my tech aware friends did similar things - some looser, some tighter.

More to make sure there was free space to do homework, chores, read, get ready for school etc without 24/7 WoW, youtube, facebook or messaging, than any scare. Terrible parents that we were, during peak Harry Potter we'd even tell them to put the book down now and then. :)


I am a millennial myself. We watched tv, had video games. But also we played lot more in playgrounds for fun, talk, meet up, discuss in real space and had real laughs.

Now I have seen kids in my neighborhood who don't know each other. In the free time they watch tv alone and uses social media most of the time. Only time they go out is for school, occasional shopping and other chores. I have not seen them with friends.

Few days back I saw a teenager using an app called Tiktok. It's like vine. Teenagers do funny weird short videos. They pretend doing funny amusing things but none of those actually are. They act like something unbelievable just happened. All the laughs are fake. They are in a competition to get more likes and shares to get famous. A reality show but at a lower level.


I don't know how it was for you but when I was in school I didn't know any of the kids in my suburb. Outside had endless roads and cars and no footpaths. Anything of interest requires having a parent to drive you there. The nearest playground is about 6km away. Online games was the only way to interact with friends outside of school.


When I was a kid (in the Jurassic era) kids did stupid stunts to be popular and overreacted to everything too.


Kids (and adults to a lesser extent) always have an always will do stupid stunts to try and standout or increase their dignitas. The social circle this happened in used to be a lot smaller though, just friends, family or maybe the school. Now they're trying to do this in the world stage where standing out is a lot harder.


Shakespeare. Hamlet. Remarks are made about both Hamlet and Ophelia reading books. Ophelia is driven insane. Hamlet has his issues too. The reading of too many books was seen as something that could lead to madness, at least something that looked very strange to others who did not read.


As a kid from the 80s, my parents prohibited video game consoles except for a GameBoy during Thanksgiving trips. It took me years of work as a child to successfully overcome their restrictions and get games onto the family computer.

At one point I synthesized a hybrid of every Jazz Jackrabbit level and bonus level into a single launcher sceeen, something the publisher hadn’t because DLC and GOTY weren’t things yet.

I was bored out of my skull as a child and applied every ounce of that boredom to making my life interesting. My parents didn’t ban games because, apparently, I had to work hard to play them at all.

I would have been much less interested in computers if I’d had a Nintendo console that I could just play games on, to the point that I might have become a math professor instead of an IT guru.

TLDR: Take care not to conflate 80s-90s PC gaming with “one-click” gaming such as consoles, Steam, etc. Their effect on children can vary wildly.


I don't thing Super Mario Brothers makes one a math professor


No single game would, but my parents taking a console-gaming money spending path would have had drastic effects on my childhood time investments in computers (since we weren’t wealthy, it would have been one or the other).


I disagree with the premise of the article and its conclusions to let kids get bored. Boredom is plain evil. It is not something that should be sought out. Rather, it is a symptom of unpreparedness or parents not stoking inherent creativity in their kids.

As a kid, I rarely left home without a book. That habit still exists today. If I was "bored" or had some idle time, I had something to keep me entertained. On long car rides I'd engage with my siblings in numerous games - many of which we made up


Don’t you think the kid should be learning to cure boredom themselves? If you always tie your kids shoes, how will they learn to tie their own shoes? Likewise, if you always provide entertainment, how will they learn to entertain themselves?


We're on the same page.

Give a man a fish vs teach a man to fish.

What I am suggesting is parents role is to teach kids to entertain themselves. Not by showing them how to turn on YouTube. But by guiding them to more "active" forms of entertainment like books, board games, running around outside, etc...


That is why you need to teach them how to do something. If kids are expected to know something teach them it.


Of course. Part of teaching is allowing them to struggle with the problem. Show them how, do it together, let them do it and help, let them do it with encouragement, finally let them do it alone. In the last two steps you must allow them to struggle and make their own mistakes.

By the time a kid knows the meaning of the word boredom, they know plenty of methods to cure it. They just need to be allowed to struggle with the problem and solve it themselves.


I have given my 5 year old enough guidance that she keeps busy when ever she is home.

Yes we still do activities, but she is never bored and she never asks for much screen time. We have tons of books, things to draw, puppets to make performances with.

I think exposing kids to lots of different activities and letting them have the free time, helps them to fill the the time.


Nowadays children find themselves in a software-defined life. Boredom is a good option of gettin outside of this environment.


Relevant Seth MacFarlane joke - https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IXOsCi_F7w8

The kids are fine. The parents have too much free time.


This goes for adults too.




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