CLEVELAND – March 9 is known as the National Day of Unplugging.
Most parents have heard the all-too-familiar whine of “I’m bored!” when devices and screens are unplugged or turned off.
But being bored once in a while is actually good for a child’s brain according to Joe Austerman, D.O., a child psychiatrist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s.
“Building times where your child is bored is an okay thing and it gives them space to be creative, learn new skills, learn different ideas – and that helps their mind develop and grow,” he said.
Dr. Austerman said devices, schedules and activities keep children busy, but it’s okay to slow down while for some unstructured time to randomly think and be creative.
Research shows boredom encourages people to seek new goals and experiences.
Dr. Austerman advises parents who are looking to limit screen time to make sure children aren’t replacing one screen with another – for example turning off the cell phone and watching television instead.
Setting screen time limits often results in push-back from children, and while it may be tempting to jump in and entertain a whining child, Dr. Austerman said it’s best to weather the storm and ride it out.
“When kids are screaming ‘I’m bored!’; ‘I have nothing to do!’ Great – it’s not your job to solve that,” he said. “It’s actually better if the child solves that for themselves. What I typically find, is after a half hour, if you’ve limited screen time, kids tend to come up with other things to do.”
Dr. Austerman said the first step to limiting a child’s screen time is for parents to model appropriate behavior themselves. He recommends parents set a good example by unplugging as well, especially when engaging in family activities and at the dinner table.