From boredom to creativity

A little boredom is good for children, Dr. Teresa Belton told the BBC. Children who are kept active and stimulated every minute don’t have a chance to develop their imaginations, argued Belton, senior researcher at the University of East Anglia’s School of Education and Lifelong Learning.

Interviewing writers, artists and other creative people, Belton heard many stories of boring childhoods. Writer Meera Syal grew up in a small mining village with few distractions.

“Boredom is often associated with solitude and Syal spent hours of her early life staring out of the window across fields and woods, watching the changing weather and seasons.

“But importantly boredom made her write. She kept a diary from a young age, filling it with observations, short stories, poems, and diatribe. And she attributes these early beginnings to becoming a writer late in life.”

Society sees boredom as uncomfortable and uncreative, Belton said. But creativity “involves being able to develop internal stimulus.”

“When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased.

“But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them.”

Reminds me on Diana Senechal’s book, Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture.

Kids add digital media to TV time

From birth through age eight, children are spending more time with digital media such as computers, video games, cell phones and video iPods, concludes a study by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco nonprofit. However, most screen time still is devoted to watching TV.

Half of children from babies to 8-year-olds have access to a smart phone, video iPod, iPad or other tablet device. Some 47 percent of higher-income parents have downloaded apps for their children, compared to 14 percent of lower-income children, leading to warnings of an “app gap.”

Half of low-income families with young children have a computer at home compared to 91 percent of higher-income families.

Computer use is pervasive among very young children, with half (53%) of all 2- to 4-year- olds having ever used a computer, and nine out of ten (90%) 5- to 8-year-olds having done so. . . . Among all children who have used a computer, the average age at first use was just 3 ½ years old.

However, TV is still king of the toddlers’ jungle. In a typical day, nearly half of babies and toddlers watch TV or DVDs for an average of nearly two hours. For all children in their first year, the average is 53 minutes of TV time versus 23 minutes being read to.

Two-thirds (65%) of 0- to 8-year-olds watch TV at least once every day (ranging from 37% of 0-1 year- olds, to 73% of 2- to 4-year-olds and 72% of 5- to 8-year-olds). Forty-two percent have a TV in their bedroom, and 39% live in a home where the TV is left on all (10%) or most (29%) of the time, whether anyone is watching it or not. Children this age spend an average of 1:44 watching TV or videos in a typical day, compared to :29 reading, :29 listening to music, and :25 playing computer or video games.

Black and Hispanic children and lower-income children spend much more time with media than whites and children with educated parents. Sixty-four percent of low-income children have a TV in their bedroom, compared to 20 percent of children in affluent homes.

Smart phones and iPads are becoming baby toys, notes the New York Times.

Jeannie Crowley, who helps faculty members at the Bank Street College of Education integrate technology into teaching, got rid of television at home because of the ads and branding.

But Ms. Crowley hands her iPad over to her 19-month-old daughter, Maggie, to play with the Smule piano app. And at bedtime, the family often watches “30 Rock” on the computer, Maggie dancing to the opening music. The toddler also loves YouTube videos of barking dogs.

And she is also adept with her mother’s smartphone.

“She learned how to unlock it, observationally, about two months ago.” Ms Crowley said. “About two weeks ago, she was on the train with me, and she popped the slide bar.”

. . . Most of all, Maggie likes to watch the cellphone videos her parents take of her stomping on leaves, getting sticky sap on her hands or wearing her new pink polka dot pajamas.

My step-granddaughter, two-year-old Julia learned to access the ring tones on my old cell phone. She presses a button, the tune plays, we dance.