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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor Emeritus of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra.

Youth boredom and its risks

Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:38:00 +0000 Published in Diari de Tarragona

In the last decade, the number of adolescents and young people suffering from a habitual state of boredom has increased issue . Some recent psychological and sociological programs of study have revealed that we are facing a very worrying disturbance, given the behavioral problems that often result.

Boredom is the permanence in the same thing; seven hours in a row with no other resource other than drinking alcohol in the "botellón", guarantees boredom, although the protagonists do not have the courage to admit it. But they are betrayed by non-verbal language: the hand holds the head. Boredom is directly proportional to the surface area of the hand holding the head: the more surface area of the hand touches the face, the greater the boredom.

This has not stopped essays and articles from continuing to be written with this message: "praise of boredom". Toohey, P. in Boredom (2011) argues that being bored awakens an adaptive emotion that makes us more creative. But he is referring to simple or transitory boredom, not chronic or existential boredom.

Existential boredom usually entails a state of despair: the adolescent or young person "does not despair of events, of misfortune, of the events that more or less distant or distant, splash and come to block the trajectories of human life (...). What in final bores him, what leads to the experience of boredom and tedium are not the others, but oneself. That is why someone is bored when he experiences himself as empty". (Polaino, A.: Aburrimiento y soledad en los adolescentes, 1989).

Parents and teachers wonder how it is possible for teenagers to be so bored with the amount of resources they have at their disposal to have fun in their leisure time.

 Thibon also considers it a paradox: "When men had more objective reasons to be bored, they were more comfortable with an apparently insipid existence, and when they have all the possibilities to distract themselves, they are more bored. The explanation is simple: what creates inappetence is satiety. Boredom is like a toxin secreted by poorly assimilated abundance. Then a remedy for the lack of appetite is sought, not in fasting, but in artificial excitements whose effect is soon extinguished" (Thibon, G: Balance and Harmony, 1978).

In the time of "the toy" (singular) the child enjoyed it very much; now that he has a room full of toys, he ignores them. What has happened? That we consumerist parents do not give the child time to desire and wait for them; we have forgotten that illusion sprouts in the waiting time. It also happens that most of the toys nowadays give everything for granted; that is why a simple empty shoebox entertains them more than an expensive battery-operated car.

A second cause of boredom: today's adolescents and young people give their lives an excessively fast, hectic pace; they live in an accelerated way, they are restless. And restlessness makes them incapable of leisure. When they try to amuse themselves in prolonged and massive nocturnal outings they are making evasion an escape from their own reality staff to pursue things that are outside of it. This escape leaves them bereft of identity and thus predisposed to boredom.

"A bored young person - compared to a non-bored one - is exposed to a higher risk of ending up in harmful addictive behaviors such as the consumption of alcohol and narcotics (...) Numerous programs of study diagnostics and symptomatology speak of cause-effect: young people when bored look for more bottles and get drunk, take more drugs, consume and surf more; they flee to artificial, psychedelic and digital spaces where they fight boredom through hyper-entertainment that gets out of control and narcotizes their attention" (García Sánchez, E.: El aburrimiento: fenómeno social en los jóvenes del siglo XXI, Revista Semana, 2012).

Boredom is not essentially due to external factors, but to internal factors. Children are not bored by anything in particular, but by themselves: they do not see themselves as interesting beings, which makes them incapable of leisure.

The existential boredom of many teenagers started the moment their parents gave in to their demand for instant entertainment. Even at family meals many children operate their parents' cell phones and tablets. The right thing to do would have been to encourage them to play and have fun without such dependence, with their own initiative. Because this has not been done, children of all ages are bewildered when the tablet or cell phone breaks down one day: it is the expression of a new withdrawal syndrome.