When I was a child I remember sometimes complaining to my mother that I had nothing to do.  Sometimes she had suggestions.  Other times she found some task for me to perform. Usually, therefore I would find something to do myself.  This was before TV, of course.  We got our first TV with a 7 inch screen the year I was married. We did have a radio but it didn’t have the same fascination as the “window to the world” that TV presented.

As an adolescent one of the things I loved to do was read.  Every two weeks I’d walk, a considerable distance, to the library and take out as many books as were allowed.  When I wanted companionship all I had to do was go to Irene’s house and yell “Yo, Ireeene! and she would come out or I would go in.  A lovely family, the Marcinkos.  Wonder whatever happened to them after I moved away,   There was a group I walked home from school with. At that age menstruation was a big topic of discussion.  There was another group of kids for sledding down Tudor hill after a snowstorm.  Idle summer days were for exploring the fields at Hillside Home, finding new wild flowers, looking for the “ideal place” where I could just sit and enjoy nature and aloneness.  I raised rabbits in the backyard and grew flowers in my garden.  We had been given a piano and someone taught me Chopsticks. I taught myself one song from an actual music book.  I guess there wasn’t much native music talent as that pastime went nowhere.

What im getting at with all these rememberings is that we found “something to do” or someone to be with in our spare time, unplanned, spontaneous.  In those days, before TV, before smart phones and iPads, we found friends and actual things to do on our own.  They were real things to DO, and real people to do be with.  We were not entertained by TV all day.  We were not entranced by one thing after another on Facebook when TV grew tiring.  We would not spend time in a room with four other people, each on their own electronic gadget.

Today, in 2017, children are privy to a constant flow of electronic input.  INPUT!  It is fascinating, novel, intriguing, gripping. And never-ending,  There comes no time when there is “nothing to do.”  No time to just hang out with someone.  No time to just “wool gather.”  No clue as to what wool gathering might mean.  TV was turned on at awakening and went to sleep with it.  If we awoke in the middle of the night our first thought is to pick up the phone or the iPad to see what is happening out there.  No thought that something might happen “right here” if given half a chance.

“According to Victoria Prooday, Occupational Therapist & writer at YourOT.com, “There is a silent tragedy developing right now, in our homes, and it concerns our most precious jewels – our children… Researchers have been releasing alarming statistics on a sharp and steady increase in kids’ mental illness, which is now reaching epidemic proportions:

1 in 5 children has mental health problems
43% increase in ADHD
37% increase in teen depression
200% increase in suicide rate in kids 10-14 years old“
She goes on to say that “Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood:

Emotionally available parents
Clearly defined limits and guidance
Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
Movement and outdoors
Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times and boredom
Instead, children are being served with:

Digitally distracted parents
Indulgent parents who let kids “Rule the world”
Sense of entitlement rather than responsibility
Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
Sedentary indoor lifestyle
Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification, and absence of dull moments”

How true… and how sad.”

The article goes on to say that it’s not just teenagers, it’s also young kids- in elementary school. “Counselors like Ellen Chance in Palm Beach say they see evidence that technology and online bullying are affecting kids’ mental health as young as fifth grade, particularly girls.

Who would ever think that the absence of  “unstructured times” and “dull moments” would become a problem?

Years ago I was struck by a quote from philosopher Mortimer Adler who said  (paraphrased)  “We need idle time so that things can occur to us.”

It’s something to mull over, to muse about, if we can ever find the time.

Mostly, the uninterrupted, all-the-time input shuts out God.

“The world is too much with us, late and soon…”