With the rise of social media, teens are filling more of their leisure time with technology than structured social activities. While they are constantly refreshing their feed for new posts, the process of infinite scrolling can become boring. One risk of boredom is creating a disconnect between acts of relief from boredom they can choose and the awareness of potential consequences these choices may have. For many troubled teens who struggle with restlessness and impulsivity, boredom can lead to risky behaviors for troubled teens. 

The Price of Free Time: Risky Behaviors For Troubled Teens

Boredom is a much more difficult experience for adolescents who typically have less life experience, coping skills, and healthy relationships than adults do to take advantage of their free time. As teens become more independent and learn that it is up to decide how to spend their time, they often feel conflicted. They love having nothing to do, but they hate having nothing to do. They don’t necessarily like being told what to do, but they don’t like not knowing what to do either.

Boredom tends to increase during early adolescence when teens are disconnected from both their childhood interests and adult responsibilities. Teens who get bored easily during their free time often lose interest in activities, have difficulty focusing on one task at a time, feel directionless, and unmotivated. Especially on weekends and vacations from school, teens struggle with finding structured activities and environments to keep them organized and distract them from unhealthy behaviors.

Risk of Boredom

According to a study conducted by the University of Bologna, teens who are more prone to boredom have fewer hobbies, are less likely to engage in activities like sports, use technology more, and binge drink more often. The risks of boredom are influenced by the emotional distress teens experience and how they seek relief. Risky activities, like binge drinking and excessive internet use may be ways to cope with boredom. 

Teens seek relief from boredom in four main ways:

  • Exclusion. This may include daydreaming or tuning out by withdrawing socially from “boring situations,” like certain classes or interactions with parents. 
  • Escape. Teens try to avoid boredom by turning to video games, social networking, and other media to distract from their offline lives.
  • Experimentation. Teens who struggle with boredom are more likely to be curious about new experiences, weighing rewards over possible consequences. Many teens begin experimenting with substances out of curiosity and boredom.
  • Excitement. For some teens, they don’t experience enough reward from healthy activities and are drawn to thrill-seeking behaviors to stimulate their boredom. This may include breaking rules, getting into fights, rebelling against authority, or being more “adventurous.”

Dealing with Boredom

Research shows that discipline is not an effective way of reducing risky behaviors in teens, as teens often choose to engage in risky behaviors to meet the needs listed above. Instead of punishing them for behavioral issues, understanding why they turn to these behaviors helps them develop healthier coping mechanisms to deal with the same issues. 

Introducing teens to a variety of adventure activities helps them explore their passions and learn new positive coping skills to use. While some consistency is useful in settling into a routine, changing it up helps teens stay engaged and motivated. 

Research shows that recreation programs are associated with reduced problem behaviors during adolescence and into young adulthood as they help teens develop positive attitudes, leadership skills, and plans for their personal success. 

Getting teens involved in different adventure activities provides structure for them that minimizes feelings of boredom and teaches them constructive ways of meeting needs for curiosity, stimulation, and entertainment.

blueFire Wilderness Can Help

blueFire Wilderness is a wilderness therapy program for teens, ages 11 to 17, grappling with depression, bullying, anxiety, addiction, and other emotional or behavioral problems.We incorporate adventure therapy and family therapy into the program to help students build confidence, improve communication skills, and gain leadership skills that help them repair relationships and rebuild trust with their parents. Our goal is to help teenagers rediscover their inner spark.

Contact us at 1 (844) 413-1999. We can help your family today!


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