Research conducted by BIC as part of its Young Artist Award found last week that children complain they’re bored an average of 122 times a month. With the summer holidays having just come to an end, I think most of us have heard those dreaded words at least a few times since July!

Child education consultant Dr Martin Stephen says:

Boredom is a brilliant platform from which children learn to use their imaginations… It’s important that we continue to develop core skills such as drawing and writing…

One worrying statistic from the research was that children spend just three hours a day away from screens. I wish I could say, Oh, that doesn’t happen in this house but the reality is that if I’m working I’ll often put the TV on for S or let her have her tablet for a while so that I can concentrate and get things done.

Apparently two-thirds of parents feel guilty about the amount of screen time their children have. I wouldn’t say I necessarily feel guilty about screen time – I feel guilty for ignoring S so that I can get some work done. When it comes to screen time, I think it’s more that I notice the difference when she’s spent more time in front of a screen. With the tablet especially, the more time she spends on it the harder she finds it to control herself and her emotions. She can be grouchy and rude the day after spending a significant amount of time on her tablet.

Another thing I’ve noticed about use of the tablet and screen time in general is that the more screen time S has, the more she seems to forget what to do with herself when the screen is not there. Actually, that’s probably true of me as well! If I tell S there’s no tablet today and ask her to play in her bedroom instead, she’ll stomp and complain that she’s bored and has nothing to do despite having a room full of toys and games. Sometimes it will take her half an hour or more to settle into some sort of activity. But if I can avoid switching the TV on and keep the tablet out of sight for a couple of days, it’s hard to get her out of her bedroom because she’s too busy playing with her games, drawing pictures or writing stories! 

I feel quite strongly that it’s important to be bored from time to time. If we’re always being entertained then we’ll never be inclined to think of new and different things to do. When I was little children’s TV was only on for a couple of hours after school and in the mornings on the weekend. Saturday afternoon TV was boring football results and we had no option but to do something else with our time. Although at the time I would have loved to have more kids’ shows to watch, I think if I had I would never have read as much as I did; I wouldn’t have bothered doing puzzles or drawing or playing daft made-up games with my brothers. Boredom is the thing that fosters creativity and that dreaded term, Thinking outside the box.

We have pots of pens and pencils in every room in the house – even in my bedroom! S loves to draw pictures for people and this is something I really want her to keep up. I think it’s important to be creative in whichever way suits you, and to have something you enjoy that’s not work or study. S is in Year 2 at school now, which means her first SATs are looming. Her school does an amazing job of doing these things without the children realising they’re being tested – but still, it’s important to enjoy activities that are just done for the sake of the activity and not for learning or other gain. 

Don’t get me wrong; I won’t be smashing up S’s tablet any time soon (I heard Kirstie Allsopp did this to her children’s iPads over the summer holidays). I do think it’s important in this day and age that children have access to tech and are familiar with it – and S has actually developed a keen interest in history and science through watching certain shows on her tablet. But I’m also still keeping a good stock of art supplies!

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


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