Are Kids Less Creative?


kid and tv.JPGWhat seemingly grouchy adults have suspected for years is actually true—at least according to a new study. Overall, kids today are less creative than they used to be.

Kyung Hee Kim, a creativity researcher at the College of William and Mary, examined around 300,000 creativity tests going back to the 1970s, according to an article on He discovered that imaginative thought has decreased since 1990. Kids are now less likely to have novel ideas and be humorous and original. They’re also less capable of expounding on ideas.

So what does Kim say caused this? Clearly, it’s too complex to pin on any one reason, but he points his finger at three important factors: schools that focus an inordinate amount of time on aptitude testing, the lack of free play time and … kids spending too much time in front of various screens.

I can’t help but focus on screen time’s effects, specifically. Granted, kids watching too much TV has been a problem since, well, probably, the television was invented. But “too much” now is a lot more than “too much” was back in the day. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 8- to 18-year-olds spend an average of seven hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media during a typical day. Over the past five years, that’s an increase of  one hour and 17 minutes a day, up from six hours 21 minutes in 2004. And because they spend so much of that time using more than one medium at a time—think watching TV while surfing the Internet—they actually pack 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those seven and a half hours.

I can see how kids driven by an aptitude-test-obsessed education system that requires one right response for an exam can be stifled creatively. And I can see how overscheduled kids suffer because they lack playtime. I just wonder, though, which is the biggest culprit: the classroom or media?  There’s no way to know with certainty. But at least we have an easier solution to the latter.

Who wrote this?

Meredith has had two careers: one as a writer/editor for both Focus on the Family and The Navigators, and one as an English teacher trekking far-flung corners of Europe, Africa and Asia. She now rejoins Focus, but with souvenirs—including new eyes with which to better view American culture.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Hithwenur:

*psst*Reading, being read to, arts and crafts, and listening to audio dramas aren't bad ways to get creative away from the TV, either.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Jazzy_99:

I think that children are from a young age forced in front of a TV so that the parents do not have to deal with the child. That is what may be the reason why they don't have a lot of creativity. They need to do more active things and pla outside.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  CJ:

I agree too much TV is bad thing. But too much wine is a bad thing. And too much food is a bad thing. And too much reading, yes, reading is a bad thing. We get the point. However, I will not let another study scare me from allowing my children to watch a quality program on the TV or feel guilty about it. I don't think FOF needs to publish articles like this. We know it! We never discuss why parents let their kids watch too much TV. Maybe the reason a lot of parents let their kids watch too much TV is because of economic strains and a lack of real community both in society and in the church. If the church cared more about building up communities and less about the individual (person or family), those families struggling would not turn to the TV for community.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Alex:

I know personally my large consumption of media has stimulated my creativity far more. However I have always had a big imagination, since I was young.

In my personal opinion its a moot point. Some kids are more creative then others. Thats just a fact, I was more creative then my friends, I took media and ideas and concepts, and have built off of them to come up wiht new ideas and concepts, original and unique.

Not everyone is meant to be creative, and varying levels of creativity speak more to differances between people rather then to overconsumption of media.

Also, how do you gauge creativity? How old were the kids in the study, at a young age kids will absorb alot of that media, then at an older age do as I did, and build off of it and expand on it.

Do you think hit think hit shows like house, lost, etc were written by people who sheltered themselves from media, because it's the devil? The pieces change but the game is the same, before media, people probably complained that children were reading far to many fiction books, and I'm personally sick of people always pointing to media and blaming media on all their percieved problems.

That is all. Sorry for the rant.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  ScottyBlue:

In response to your comment,

When I say "Growing Up To Quickly" I am referring to the ever-increasing trend, influenced by such media as I-Carly and Hannah Montana, for kids age 8-12 trying to emulate the traits of a spoiled teenager becuase they mistakenly think it's "Mature". Of course, not playing with younger siblings, acting ludicrously high-and-mighty,  and dressing in revealing "fashionable" clothes at that early an age is the furthest thing from maturity, which I believe is (in part) the ability to distinguish between what is popular and what is right.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Hithwenur:

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I was homeschooled, I still retain my imagination, and know several others for whom it was the same way. But I do also know homeschoolers less imaginative than myself and some of my friends, and I know public schoolers who are "kindred spirits" on this. And there are families for whom homeschooling would potentially be less of a practicable option than for others, whether because of lacking a parent, or needing both parents in the workplace, or lacking the budget to buy a good curriculum, or insert reason here.As much as I loved having time with my family, customized curricula, one on one tutoring whenever I needed help with something, and all of that other lovely stuff--on top of having my imagination encouraged--I know perfectly well that homeschooling isn't the answer to all a child's ills.I didn't intend to get over-serious on everyone, I do understand Roger was probably at least partially joking.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Eh:

lol In response to B) I think we all use "growing up" incorrectly. Kids today know about sex, drugs, politics, cursing, dating sexting, partying, adult humor etc. earlier but they are not "growing up" if anything they have a longer period of adolesence look at how many people still live at home past college, play video games (average gamer is 35), and extend the college partying/irresponsibility past 30. There's a difference between knowing adult things (which kids today do and is fine by itself. It might be "shocking" that your 10 year old knows dirty jokes but the knowledge is different than the actions taken with that knowledge) and being grown up about that knowledge (which is where most of the problems arise [sexting, cursing, insert other "adult" things kids are doing nowadays])

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  YetAnotherTeen:

What do you know, I fit all three of those categories you listed...

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Roger S.:

ScottyBlue is correct.But an answer to all three potential causes is already lurking in most of the other posts:HomeschoolHomeschool, andHomeschoolFamilies who homeschool de facto care about and are deeply involved with their children that they don't let them become obsessive with their media habits (of course there may be a few who go astray in any group, including homeschoolers, but the vast majority of homeshcoolers don't face problems with a lack of creativity, stiffled learning, and obsessive media habits described in this article....just my $0.02

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  ScottyBlue:

Whoops, that should have said three causes. My typo mistake; sorry.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  ScottyBlue:

You're not wrong; simply watching/reading/listening to the repetitiveness of media nowadays proves that kids (and eventually adults) are becoming less and less imaginative as time goes on. There are two main causes of this:

A) public schools, which purposely standardize everything and make sure to diagnose imaginative, creative, actually childish kids with some sort of disorder so they can be given behavioral pills (which are not bad, so long as used in moderation), and add so many extra editorial/busywork projects to schoolwork so kids spend all day at school or at home doing the projects until their brains are physically too worn out to play. make stuff up, or do anything save sit back on their heinies and play video games (again, not bad unless not used in moderation).

B) Media, which hypocritically extolls being "who you are" by following the same trend of growing up quickly that everyone else is doing.

C) Most importantly, families who do not take the time to play with their children and encourage their imagination because its "silly", "immature", "stressful to the parents", and so on and so forth. This is the biggest problem of all; kids just fed with video games and other entertainment to keep them out of their parents hair will soon lack the ability to imagine anything save what they see. (I speak from experience on this one) Parents need to get over the too-prevalent "Oh-poor-me" attiude concerning their kids and learn to embrace who they are, and not fill them full of outside entertainment to avoid the responsibility of just being a good mom or dad.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  AndStuff:

I thoroughly agree with you. What are they doing in school? Sitting within walls, being told exactly what they're supposed to know, which is what's on some ridiculous test somewhere. It's crazy. They're even making playgrounds "safer".  They've gotten rid of those wooden castles, some places are getting rid of swings etc. Those wooden castles were a great source of imagination for me when I was little. When kids go into really huge imaginations, they get told they're just being ridiculous instead of being told how cool it is that they could think up something so original. But then again, I was homeschooled, so maybe I'm wrong.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  kate:

I'm not suggesting they're pulling things out of thin air. The article tells you nothing about how the study was done. It just summarizes the findings; it doesn't say how the sample was collected and analyzed, or if its representative. In fact, it appears that the relationship is merely coorelational not cause-and-effect. Plus, the article mentions that other creative researchers did not obtain similar findings, which makes the whole thing inconclusive.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  YetAnotherTeen:

Then look it up yourself. They provide sources, they aren't just pulling these out of personal experience. Read the linked articles yourself, make your own conclusion and post it here if you must.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  kate:

Well, it seems there's an overwhelming tendency to post stuff about the evils of media. I know someone posted somthing positive recently, but it's a rare occurence. I mean, I get it's their job, but it often feels like these discussions are blowing things way out of proportion. We don't even know the context of these 'media effects' or how the study was done. It's really frustrating.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Charger:

I have noticed that lately. But to show that not all kids are uncraetive, a couple of weeks ago my perents got a new lazy boy chair and the box was huge! Well as with almost all boxs that come in our house it became a playhouse complete with door and some windows. Oh and my 2 year old brother makes guns out of bananas or pieces of bread shaped like them! lol Outside its always cowboys or army or Star Wars. At least my sibs have a HUGE imagination that i dont think is going to go away, and i will be imagining along side them.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  louisewu:


Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  YetAnotherTeen:

I thought that myself. Then I thought, "If I weren't reading this article, what would I decide was the worst of the three?" For me, it'd be the school system, that's my personal bias. It depends on what you spend the most time seeing the bad in, I assume. At Plugged In, media's the focus, they've seen pretty much the best and the worst of media, and so they have the most confidence saying something about the negatives of media.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Chrisa:

Very insightful article! My family stopped watching much TV when I was 6 because we moved to a place where it was hard to get reception (now, we can get it, but I never watch it because I'm not use to it). I can't help but wonder if that's part of why I love reading and writing novels.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  kate:

It seems that everything is the fault of ''the media''.