"Okay, Google. Things to do in Papamoa." I can hear Miss 14 from her room.

It's Saturday afternoon, and she and a friend are SO BORED. Of course they ask an iPhone how they might fix this pressing issue.

"How about walking the dog or helping me around the house?," I offer. Miss 14 says it all sounds like work. She can't be bothered.

An article in the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend that day reminds me I'm a parent to two "screenagers", (one of them is 12 years old but acts like a screenager).


The piece said research showed nine of 10 Kiwi kids aged 10 to 14 gaze at screens for longer than the recommended two hours each day. Most have no limit on time spent playing computer games, using their phones, or browsing the internet.

But wait, there's an app to fix that, the brainwave of a Kiwi mum who wanted a simple way to monitor screen use. It's called Technology Time, and it allows children to earn device minutes for completing tasks like homework or reading. I make a mental note to check it out.

Boredom and connecting are becoming lost arts - not just for screenagers, but for older folks, too.

When's the last time you stood in a queue without staring at your phone? Or struck up a conversation with a stranger while waiting for an event to start, instead of slinking into cyberspace? Research shows people who chat during activities like commutes enjoy their time more than people who don't.

Similar studies show we vastly underestimate strangers' willingness to engage with us.
Bottom line: It's okay, even beneficial, to chat to Mrs or Mr Random, and few people would spurn attempts at sociability.

I attended a meeting last week where a facilitator asked everyone to stand up, face their neighbour, and perform a hongi.

I suspected there was no way the millennial dude to my left would go nose-to-nose. He hadn't even made eye contact. I turned instead to an exuberant young event volunteer to my right who just moments earlier had had a sneeze fest. I gave a hongi, exchanging the breath of life, while silently hoping I wouldn't get ill (I didn't).

In an age where our attention is sought, manipulated and sold as a commodity, focusing on people at arm's length is practically weird. Being bored is insufferable.


Many researchers dispute that, instead saying boredom is beautiful. It ignites a network in our brains called the default mode, allowing it to get busy while we're on autopilot, taking a walk. Scientists put people through MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging scans) to measure how our brains make different connections in a state of boredom.

Dr Sandi Mann, from the University of Central Lancashire, told Britain's Telegraph newspaper she believes parents should allow their children to experience boredom so they can learn to create their own entertainment.

"Unlike so many parents today, I am quite happy when my kids whine that they are bored. Finding ways to amuse themselves is an important skill."

If it's good enough for internationally recognised experts, it's good enough for me. I often tell my children smart people don't get bored. They're sick of hearing it.

Suddenly last Saturday, the kids concocted their own amusements - combining citric acid and baking soda while standing over the kitchen sink, frothing at the mouth.

They played a bit of piano. It didn't last long, but made my heart sing with hope that Miss 14 and Master 12 could occupy themselves with something other than YouTube and Fortnite.

The wresting of young eyes from shiny, funny, flashy devices proves a daily battle requiring strategy. The only computer suitable for gaming sits in our lounge; the only time gaming happens is weekends (mostly); devices are confiscated at bedtime; and almost every weekday afternoon involves sports training. It never feels like I'm doing enough.

I need to set an example, too. One expert, a former Google project manager, says changing your phone to greyscale can reduce phone addiction, or the "slot machine effect" by making the display drab and, yes, boring. I search and search for this option on my Android, but fail to find it. I delete the Facebook app instead, figuring a week-long hiatus can't hurt.

Maybe I'll be bored. Maybe I'll convince my children to be bored. We could set a trend - instead of whinging about how busy we are, the new status phrase will be - I'm SO BORED.

You and I can talk about this face-to-face in a queue or during a break at an event. It's okay if we don't know each other - I promise to make eye contact. I hear it's making a comeback.