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Why are kids bored?

Published May 15. 2010 09:00AM

I'm always careful with language.

My thinking is there are so many worthwhile words to express thoughts that there is no need to resort to profanity.

So, imagine my surprise when my grandkids went running to their mother to say, "Nonna said a bad word."

The "bad word," I was told, was the word stupid.

"We don't use that word in this house," said my daughter, Andrea. "It's not nice to say someone is stupid."

I wasn't calling anyone names. I was simply stating that it was stupid of me to keep losing my glasses. I can never go anywhere without the big hunt for the right glasses. When I go to the Big Judgment in the Sky and have to account for how I spent my time on earth, I'm sure I'll have to account for wasting years of my life hunting for glasses.

"Well, please don't say the word 'stupid' or my kids will think it's all right," retorted my daughter.

Some words grate on us like fingernails on a blackboard. Obviously, hearing "stupid" distresses Andrea.

I have my own word that sends me up a wall and motivates me to get on my personal pulpit. I can't stand to hear the words, "I'm bored."

My grandkids have more special playthings than a FAO Swartz Superstore. They also have enough electronics to keep an entire generation of kids busy for a year, or until a blackout - whichever comes first. To accommodate their musical instruments, ping-pong table, pinball machines, closet full of games and their own media center, my daughter and her husband built a special playroom downstairs.

Andrea keeps the kids busy with swim team, tennis tournaments, music lessons and sports. One would think they would need a breather from all that - down time to just do nothing.

Oh, no.

If any of the kids find themselves idle for more than a few minutes, they start uttering the phase that sets me off: "I'm bored."

The grandkids have learned not to say that around me. If it slips out, they look at me anticipating a negative reaction and they always get it.

A few weeks ago my husband and I went with our dance group on a cruise to Mexico, Belize and Honduras. We had just boarded the huge ship and were following the recommendation to walk around and see what the ship had to offer.

In the game room, we found two young teenagers trying to play mahjong. A companion stopped to ask them what kind they were playing. "We're not," answered one girl. "We're just trying to stop from being bored."

Incredibly, passengers were only on that magnificent ship for an hour or two. We had not yet left the harbor. There was so much to see in the water, along the Tampa coastline and on the ship itself. But before we left port, the kids were already bored.

I had an uncharitable thought. I wanted to throw them overboard.

Someone else probably would have listened to the teen's "I'm bored" lament and not thought anything of it. But I couldn't help thinking it's a sign of the times.

I figured the girls probably missed being able to text their friends, telling them how deprived they were not to have video games or Internet on board unless they paid $75 an hour.

I hear many parents lament the fact that their kids only want to sit in front of their video games. And I've heard some interesting stories about "teen deprivation."

One man, who volunteers at an outdoor camp for kids, said some of the youngsters are stunned when they learn there would be no television, cell phones or personal electronic games at camp. Instead, they would be learning about nature, the outdoors and how to sail and kayak.

"They grumble a lot but by the end of the week they all have a good time. But I'm amazed how disconnected kids are from anything that isn't a PC game," he said.

Those of us who grew up playing outdoors and never wanted to come inside for the night when our parents called us have a hard time understanding why so many kids opt to stay indoors with their computers and PC games.

My grandson, Cameron, is being punished for deliberately not working up to his potential in school. His punishment is total loss of his PC and all his electronic toys.

To find something to do, Cameron had to resort to playing outdoors with his friends for the first time in years. Ever since he discovered the world of computer games and technology, he stopped playing outdoors.

Now, he is utterly amazed to learn how much fun it is to run like the wind while playing flashlight tag and other outdoor games.

His mother says he's much happier now that he's playing outdoors with friends instead of playing solitary games inside. Even his schoolwork is improving.

Oh, yes, baby. It's a wide, wonderful world out there.

Those who learn to explore it will never be bored.

Maybe we should tell that to the legions of school kids about to complain about boredom during their summer vacation.

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