Why you should keep your child from overstimulation
Children these days are facing more screen time than ever. If in the past, they were limited to television at home, now they are given cell phones at an earlier age and reaching for their parents’ tablet at restaurants. Instead of looking at the scenery out the car window on road trips, they watch movies on DVD players or play games on handheld devices.
The increased screen time and outlets for distraction introduce the problem of overstimulation. No longer are children told to keep themselves busy, but they have various tools already at hand to keep themselves busy. As a result, they grow a lower tolerance for boredom, and they do not know what to do with themselves when there is nothing stimulating them externally.
Children no longer give themselves the time to be bored, yet it is time worth having. That is why it is very important to limit stimulation so their brains can get a rest. Let them be bored. It can do wonders for them. Here is how boredom can help your child:
It is natural for children deprived of outside stimuli to occupy themselves with whatever they have at hand–which is their imagination. When the mind feels disengaged, it will wander in order to find engagement, leading to creative thinking. This is an important skill to exercise.
Sandi Mann, a researcher specializing in boredom, stated, “Once you start daydreaming and allow your mind to really wander, you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit into the subconscious, which allows sort of different connections to take place.”
The idea that wandering minds lead to deeper thinking was backed by a study at the University of Central Lancashire. 80 participants in the experimental group performed a boring activity before having to think of as many uses for plastic cups as possible. Those 80 participants came up with many more creative answers than participants within the control group.
As previously written, creativity is already deemed a very desirable trait in employees (LINK). Companies look for this when hiring and are likely to value it even more in the future, so have your child practice thinking outside of the box! Let them make up games in the backyard or chat with imaginary friends. Let them consume less and create more!
Increases ability to focus
It may be worrisome for some parents to see their child constantly staring out the window and daydreaming. However, believe it or not, letting the mind wander will actually increase their ability to focus on a task later on.
A brain that is constantly stimulated will lead to shorter and shorter attention spans. Think of all the overwhelming apps and perks a phone has to offer. Dr. Joseph Firth of Western Sydney University said, “[T]he limitless stream of prompts and notifications from the Internet encourages us towards constantly holding a divided attention — which then in turn may decrease our capacity for maintaining concentration on a single task.” This also leads to constantly multi-tasking, and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin says, “[Y]ou’re rapidly shifting from one thing to the next, depleting neural resources as you go.”
This kind of overstimulation and bombardment of tasks will decrease the efficacy of your child’s brain functions. If you remove things that will distract or overwhelm them, your child will be able to space out, which will then give their brain a rest until they need it for a specific task, such as studying or solving a problem. At that point, the brain will have reached its full potential for focus from the recharge.
Hones observation skills
Lack of stimulation would not only increase the ability to focus but also hone observation skills. It may seem boring to a child to sit on a blanket in the park and view the scenery. It may seem pointless to sit by a window and people watch. However, just because it seems like nothing is going on does not mean your child is doing nothing.
No matter what, the brain is working to a degree, whether it is active or passive. In this case, your child may be observing what is going on around them. Rather than being bombarded with information, your child is calmly taking note of things, whether they recognize this or not.
This is a practice of meditation and mindfulness. Removing stimulation gives them an opportunity to take in what is around them and notice things much more keenly than if they had been distracted by something or many somethings.
Have you ever experienced this after playing the same game over and over again? You still see the Tetris or Candy Crush screen in your mind’s eye, whether you are sitting around or trying to sleep in bed. Even after, it inhibits your observation skills and holds your mind captive.
Quiets their mind
Building on the previous point, your child needs to quiet the mind. A lot of times, being busy is a distraction. It can distract them from things that actually have to be done, like choosing to read the news over working on an essay. It can pull them away from troubling feelings, like the pestering thought that they do not belong anywhere or stress that they will never be good enough.
Preoccupying or diverting themselves does not solve any problems, nor does it actually make them feel better, because those issues are still there. Once they remove all the stimulants, your child will be able to actually listen to their thoughts, or even to quiet the mind if the thoughts are unhelpful. This will help them figure things out, trust their voice, and learn to take effective action. Sometimes, it is good to be alone with your thoughts.
Improves self-discipline and patience
This then leads to an improved self-discipline. Your child may feel like they have to be doing something all the time in order to feel productive, even if it is constantly researching or watching TikTok videos. However, nothing is actually being done.
By encouraging your child to take a break from YouTube or Snapchat, you are really encouraging their self-discipline. Once they learn to fight the urge to flood their minds with irrelevant information and all the emotions that come with the Internet, they can redirect that newfound self-discipline to purposeful action. They will stop procrastinating. They will be better at time management. They will actually pay more attention to their surroundings and friends.
This will also increase their patience. Often games and apps give frequent rewards with fanfare-like music or fun graphics to provide a sense of achievement. That is a lot of stimulants, and also sets up unrealistic expectations for real-life success. Staying away from that may help them work on long-term goals with patience instead of striving for quick gratification.
All of the advantages mentioned above will lead to many more advantages in your child’s life, and it all stems from removing stimulation and embracing boredom. That is where it starts. There is such an emphasis on the hustle these days, but more and more people are realizing they need to take a step back and truly live in the present, let their minds wander, and embrace the excitement of life.
Let your child appreciate the wonderful portals that boredom can open up for them if given the chance. Set restrictions on their Internet usage. Free up their schedules. Let them wander and play outdoors by themselves. Whenever they whine, “I’m bored!” tell them, “That’s good.” Create times for you to sit with your child and do separate activities together in silence, like painting or fishing.
Now that you have finished reading this, you can unplug and let your own mind wander into fun daydreams and imagine a brighter future for your child!