Digital Boredom


Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. Proverbs 4:1

Generation Z  has been called “Digital Natives”. Being connected digitally is all they have ever known. Previous generations didn’t grow up with smartphones or tablets in their hands.

Ninety percent were on a tablet or phone as preschoolers. Some think children are getting too much social media too soon.  There are an estimated 7.5 million social media users under the age of 13, despite an age limit of 13 to get an account.

Generation Z – those born roughly between 1998 and 2010 – may be getting jaded on things digital. According Taylor Lorenz, “Many have had smartphones since elementary, if not middle school. They’ve grown up with high-speed internet, laptops, and social media.”

Lorenz describes a Gen Z person as having the capability to sit in a doctor’s waiting room and being able to check email, Instagram, Twitter and play Angry Birds. But they are now experiencing a new kind of boredom which she describes as “Phone Boredom”.

That’s news to me. One would have thought that the connection to technology at their finger-tips would have killed boredom as we know it. Well, apparently not.

It reminds me of when I grew up when television was labeled the “boob tube” and teachers and librarians scrambled to compete with TV sets. Now, YouTube and Netfllix have replaced television for passive, often mindless, entertainment.

Previous generations may have scrolled through TV channels or music channels, but today’s teens may open or close 20 to 30 apps, hoping that something or anything will catch their attention. “Phone boredom occurs when you’re technically ‘on your phone’ but you are still bored out of your mind,” according to Taylor Lorenz.

Generation Z is already changing from the millennials when it comes to Apps. Twenty-five percent of them left Facebook in 2014, long before privacy issues were known. Their taste in social media has now gravitated to Snapchat, Secret and Whisper. Millennials, on the other hand, use Facebook to post anything and everything about their lives with little concern about the consequences.

As a result, Gen Z tend to be more private, and the millennials more self-absorbed, so that posting selfies is the norm.

While they use the internet for school work, 41% of Generation Z spends 3 hours a day on a screen on non-schoolwork related activities. According to Tim Elmore, “being online is where they learn, where they shop, where they connect with others, where they entertain themselves, and where they play.”

This shift has consequences. Chief among them is spending more time indoors, leading to a more sedentary life.  The sedentary lifestyle has led to 16% of Generation Z being overweight or obese, a number that has tripled since 1980.

Another 11% have been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) which is higher than any previous generation. More kids have trouble sitting still and staying focused. According to Tim Elmore, “kids mental ‘filters’ have reduced their attention spans from 12 seconds in 2000 to only 6 seconds in 2015.”

You would think with the variety activities at their fingertips, it would be hard to get bored.  But bored they are, only this time from a new source: technology.

Listening to music tops the usage with 82%, followed by playing games and taking photos (76% each), texting (74%) and finally, videos (72%). This is from a study of 4,000 teens in 8 countries around the world. 48% of Gen Z checked their phone at least 15 times an hour. 24% checked it at least 30 or more.

Most members of Gen Z find high-speed internet more important than having a good bathroom. They won’t have to wait long, since it is predicted that the internet speed will double by 2022, just 4 years away.

These studies show that the life of the Digital Native is a mixed bag. The positive side of the coin permits them to research information faster.  The downside: being always “on” and connected socially has led to anxiety, depression, cyber-bullying and a sedentary life leading to obesity, and yes, even boredom.

Our challenge is to reach Gen Z and encourage them to look beyond the smartphone in their hand for entertainment.  Encourage them to put their phones down and be physically active, even if it is just taking 30-minute walks.  Exercise is an antidote for depression, by the way.  Encourage them to read books, not just listen to audio books. These habits can be life changing.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Generation Z are open to mentoring. There is an opportunity to reach out to them while they are still in high school.  Encouraging them to adopt healthy lifestyles (both physical and spiritual) can be incredibly valuable and life-changing.


  1. Taylor Lorenz on “Phone Boredom”.
  2. 7 Generation Z Statistics Every Adult Should Know from Tim Elmore.
  3. An article on Generation Z and Obesity:
  4. Information on Generation Z’s social media preferences: by Adweek.
  5. Study of Generation Z’s technology habits.


A parent’s experience with an ADHD child and resources to help.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Paul Baloche sing Today is the Day reminding us that today is a good time to start mentoring the next generation.

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3 thoughts on “Digital Boredom

  1. Fred Berkheimer says:

    Bill, Thanks for sharing; you gave me something to think about as I scrolled to it in my boredom search of games to play! In the future, could you make your posts shorter as my attention span runs out about the middle and I can no longer concentrate. I will work on my lack of focus.

    Fred Berkheimer 45 Sawmill Road East Pinehurst, NC. 28374 910-986-2258


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