“But mom, I’m bored!” is a sentence that you’re likely to hear if you set restrictions on your teen’s phone use. And it’s easy to sympathize – both teens and adults have learned to use smartphones as a bulwark against boredom. Your phone allows you to scroll through social media while standing in line at the bank or stream videos or music while stuck on a dull bus ride.
Teens have become so accustomed to using their phones to alleviate boredom that they don’t know what to do without them for a few hours a day. But that doesn’t mean you should give in. It’s one thing to turn to a smartphone for a distraction during a boring commute, but it’s quite different to be fully reliant on a smartphone for entertainment when there are other options out there. Take a look at some tips that can help you teach your teen how to cope with boredom during phone-free times.
Encourage a New Hobby
A new hobby can keep your teen busy even when they’re away from their phone.
One’s teenage years are supposed to be a time of exploration. Unfortunately, many teens are so busy exploring the app stores, that they forget to explore their own interests and desires. Encourage your teen to get involved in a hobby or learn a new skill, like joining a team sport or learning to play a musical instrument.
Don’t be surprised if your teen doesn’t know what kind of hobby they may be interested in just yet. Present them with some options, and be willing to be flexible if they try a few things only to drop them quickly. Not everyone is cut out for every activity, and sometimes an activity that looks interesting may end up not being a good fit.
Allow your teen to dip their toe in the water – for example, rent an instrument that they’re interested in playing, so that if it turns out not to be a good fit, you don’t stand to lose a big investment. Encourage your teen to keep trying new things until they find something they want to stick with.
Get Them Out & Into the World
Teens tend to use their phones and other devices as a primary means of communicating with friends and meeting new people. It can help to get your teen into situations where they’re likely to have to interact with others face-to-face.
Volunteering can be a great way to get your kids out and into the world, help them expand their minds, and give them opportunities to meet people that they may not have met otherwise. Volunteering also looks good on a college application and can sometimes lead to scholarship opportunities. Whether they’re dishing up hot meals at a homeless center, visiting seniors in nursing homes, or caring for strays at the local humane society, volunteer work can help expand their minds and improve their skills.
Let Them Be Bored
Boredom is inevitable – even smartphones become boring given enough time.
It may sound strange, but sometimes the best thing to do with a bored teen is simply let them be bored. Boredom isn’t pleasant, but it’s a normal part of the human condition and is actually important in child development. It’s also unavoidable – eventually, teens even get bored with their smartphones.
When children and teens are bored and no one steps in to entertain them, they’re forced to use their imaginations to find ways to amuse themselves. This is an important skill. Forced to confront their boredom on their own, your teen may discover a latent ability for writing stories, creating art, fixing things, or building things – the possibilities are endless. Boredom offers your teen a real chance to discover new things about themselves.
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