Do Your Kids Say They’re Bored

Category: Families & Generations, Weekly Columns

A recent George Will column, “Lost In Electronica,” started me  thinking about how often kids says they’re bored. “Are you kidding me,” said in my best Robert DeNiro accent!  If anything, I find there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to begin to do all that I want to do.

But, it’s evidently a fact that many in this current generation are often bored, even with all that is available at their fingertips.  Of course, every child doesn’t have access to all our current high-tech devices, but most libraries do have computer “labs.”  Why is boredom more prevalent today?  My first answer is MTV.  Yes, MTV, which if you’ve forgotten stands for “Music Television.”  When it began, in August of 1981, it ushered in a whole new world of fast-cutting short videos.

Until MTV, most videos that our children saw were in the form of television programs–1/2-hour sitcoms and 1-hour dramas–and movies which were anywhere from about 80 minutes, on the shorter side (usually comedies and animated films), to close to three-hours for the epics (like “Titanic”). MTV changed all that by providing little mini-movies, the length of songs, that were also produced and edited in a brand-new style–fast-cutting imagery in which the camera almost never lingered on one image for long.

In my opinion, this new style slowly polluted movies and television since all of these mediums sought to keep up with the hip image and the new way of filming and editing that these music videos had begun.  Occasionally, there was a music video that actually told a story, had a beginning, middle, and end, and was well produced and theatrical.  I think that Michael Jackson’s music video of “Thriller” was the epitome of a rare good music video.

But, the norm became faster and faster images flashing across the screen with little or no relevance to the lyrics of the song.  Flash was the ideal; substance was irrelevant.  A new era of entertainment had begun.

For my boys, this meant that watching a black-and-white movie was not going to happen, at least when they were younger.  For that matter, “old” movies were just too slow for their newly adjusted-by-MTV attention span!  At the time, this stunned me though I later began to understand how they had been “educated” by MTV and later reality TV, to view film and television in a totally different manner than I was accustomed to.

Let’s fast forward to what has happened since MTV.  Obviously, the Internet grew to the indispensible tool it has become for most of the world.  MySpace came out and began the Social Media revolution, followed by Facebook, first on college campuses and later everywhere (it just passed the 500 million member mark!).  YouTube followed and now TV was available in small bites anytime of the day. Finally, we have Twitter, where communication is reduced to just 140 characters.

How quaint my childhood activities seem in reflection.  We played.  We went outside.  We climbed trees.  We played stick ball in the street!  Yeah, the street!  Our parents didn’t even worry about us.  If a car came up the street, we just moved aside.  No big deal!

We rode our bikes.  We had rotary telephones, one TV in the house, and a neighborhood movie theater where they had “double-bills,” something my boys would think of as two $1 dollar bills, I suppose?  A singular memory of mine from my childhood was when television went “color” and I just loved seeing the NBC peacock in color when we finally could afford our first color television set.  The one with a remote control was out of our budget.

I would often go to the local library and browse among the books.  I was an avid reader and I kept a list of my favorite authors in my wallet and scoured the shelves for books by these writers.  I went through phases that included, The Hardy Boys, books about hot rods, classic adventures like “Treasure Island,” “The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Three Musketeers,” and so many other glorious escapes to other times and places.  My mind was exercised.  My body was exercised.  Boredom?  You must be kidding?

But, today, all the options, the speeds with which our kids can indulge their whims, and all this technology have simply resulted in a lack of creativity, a lack of initiative, and this increase in boredom.  They have so many choices that it just becomes overwhelming.  With anything and everything available it is almost as if nothing is really of value.  How ironic.  It’s a real problem.

And, many of us allow them to succumb to this problem by supplying them with all the tools of the day in the form of smart phones, iPods, computers, DVRs, various game platforms from the Wii to X-box, as well as DVDs, movies-on-demand (a new feature of NetFlix), and iTunes where you can buy any song for 99 cents.  It’s all too easy.  Thus, the boredom.

Again, I feel like my parents reflecting on the “good ol’ days” but I can’t help it. I wonder what you think?