Technology kills our imagination

A child plays a video game on a tablet. Columnist Ellen urges parents to allow their children to be bored and, thus, cultivate their imagination rather than drown them in technology.

Photo Courtesy of Intel Free Press

A child plays a video game on a tablet. Columnist Ellen urges parents to allow their children to be bored and, thus, cultivate their imagination rather than drown them in technology.

By Ellen Barczak, Columnist

I had a weird summer. I babysat/teenage-sat (I hereby declare “teenage-sat” a word) an 11-year-old and a 15-year-old. I learned many a lesson from my quirky summer job. The most important of all the lessons, however, was to not give your kid an iPad. Seriously.

The imagination of a child is a wonderful thing. I remember my neighbor and I made a fort out of a large bush in her backyard when we were 11; we fashioned “thrones” out of flagstones, “cooked” with the berries on a bush and used water from the creek. It was a blast and a half. 

Today’s 11-year-olds don’t want to play make believe. They want to watch vloggers on YouTube or make some slime. But, that’s about it.

Technology is undeniably a huge part of our lives these days, even for kids. But I worry how this boundless technology will affect future generations.

I’m 20, I’m not a parent, but I have a bit of parenting advice to throw out there: Let your kids be bored.

Being bored is a wonderful thing. Boredom forces you to think creatively, to find something to do with whatever is around the house, to fool around and pretend and play and just be a kid.

Boredom, I would even venture to say, creates smarter, more creative individuals. What are the chances a kid will tinker around with the innards of a radio when he has an iPad? What are the chances a kid will make a log cabin out of popsicle sticks and fabric glue when the TV is always on?

If we want the next generation to be composed of engineers, artists, writers and teachers, we need to keep kids off of iPads. Throw the devices in a lake. Smash them with a hammer. Or, better yet, don’t give your kid one in the first place. 

When I was 11, I read voraciously. The summer before sixth grade, I was bored, so I decided to see how quickly I could read the Harry Potter series in its entirety. It took me 17 days. 

If I had an iPad, I wouldn’t have been bored. And I definitely wouldn’t have read seven books in less than three weeks. 

Let’s turn the tables a little bit. If you had a choice, would you watch Netflix, or would you read a book? 

Not only do we need to limit our children’s exposure to technology, but we need to limit our own screen time as well. If your kid can’t spend time on the family tablet, you shouldn’t watch the latest episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” either. 

Tech-free time should be a family affair. I think all our imaginations could use a little TLC.

Ellen is a junior in LAS.

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