Recreation and the Use of Free Time - Teenagers, Leisure Time, And Volunteerism

children students service activities

While the free time activities of young children can be in large part determined by their parents' schedules, teenagers tend to have more genuinely free time. What do they do with it? Teenagers fill their leisure hours with a variety of activities, some of which are not always agreeable to adults. Some parents claim teens watch too much television; most experts believe teens do not get enough physical exercise; teachers complain their students spend too little time on schoolwork or reading. This unfavorable picture, however, is not entirely accurate.

Volunteerism

Many young people spend a substantial amount of time in a wide variety of volunteer and community service activities, ranging from cooking holiday dinners for homeless people or visiting nursing homes to serving as mentors for children or volunteering at the local animal shelter. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in its Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2003, in 1999, the most recent data available, slightly more than fourteen million youngsters (52%) in grades six through twelve performed community service, up from 12.6 million (49%) in 1996. (See Table 9.4.) About 48% of students in grades six through eight, 50% of students in grades nine and ten, and 61% of students in grades eleven and twelve performed community service in 1999. Female students (57%) were more likely than male students (48%) to be engaged in community service. White students (56%) were more likely than African-American (48%) or Hispanic (38%) students to volunteer. The higher the students' parents' level of education, the more likely the student was to participate in community service activities.

During his first term President George W. Bush placed an emphasis on volunteerism. In his 2002 State of the Union address he called on Americans of all ages to pledge at least two years during their lives, or four thousand hours, to volunteer work. Toward this effort, the White House launched the Freedom Corps on January 30, 2002, to foster a culture of service, citizenship, and responsibility. In 2002 more than 130,000 schools received copies of the Students in Service to America guidebook. Programs for youth volunteerism described in the USA Freedom Corps 2003 Annual Report (January 2004) included Learn and Serve America, designed to provide grants to educational programs linking classroom instruction with community service. In 2003 more than one million students volunteered in community service projects.

Extracurricular Activities

The extracurricular activities engaged in by children and teens vary by age and gender. Adolescents are more likely than younger children to participate in sports (37.2% of twelve- to seventeen-year-olds compared with 30.6% of six- to eleven-year-olds). (See Table 9.5.) Both adolescents and younger children were equally likely to participate in clubs (34.4% and 33.8%, respectively). Younger children (32%) were more likely to take lessons (music, dance, language, computers, and religion, for

TABLE 9.4

Community service participation of students in grades 6–12, 1996 and 1999
(12,627 represents 12,627,000)
Students participating in community service (1,000) Percent of students participating in community service
Characteristic 1996 1999 1996 1999
*Includes students with no grade reported.
SOURCE: Adapted from "No. 586. Community Service Participation of Students in Grades 6 through 12: 1996 and 1999," in Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2003, U.S. Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/03statab/socinsur.pdf (accessed September 16, 2004)
Total* 12,627 14,010 49 52
Student's grade:
Grades 6 through 8 5,462 5,573 47 48
Grades 9 and 10 3,370 3,984 45 50
Grades 11 and 12 3,795 4,448 56 61
Sex:
Male 5,971 6,490 45 48
Female 6,656 7,520 53 57
Race/ethnicity:
White, non-Hispanic 9,113 9,933 53 56
Black, non-Hispanic 1,761 1,972 43 48
Hispanic 1,246 1,323 38 38
Other race-ethnicity 506 781 50 54
Parent's highest level of education:
Less than high school 834 935 34 37
High school graduate or equivalent 3,273 3,298 42 46
Voc/tech education after high school or some college 3,617 4,000 48 50
College graduate 2,250 2,648 58 62
Graduate or professional school 2,653 3,129 64 64

example) than were older children (26.2%). Boys of both age groups were more likely to participate in sports than were girls; girls were more likely to join clubs and take lessons. White children, children with parents who were highly educated, and children whose family incomes were above the poverty line were all more likely than other children to take part in extracurricular activities.

Teens' Favorite Leisure Activities

Teens engage in a wide variety of leisure activities. Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU), a marketing research firm based in Northbrook, Illinois, polled more than two thousand teens in 2000 to find out what motivated them. The number-one answer, given by 50% of respondents, was, "We're about fun." The 2000 TRU Teenage Marketing and Lifestyle Study listed leisure activities to determine how many teens participated and how many hours a week the teens spent participating in each activity. The number-one leisure activity was watching TV, with 98% of respondents indicating they participated, spending an average of 11.2 hours a week watching. Other leisure activities chosen by at least three-quarters of respondents were:

TABLE 9.5

Extracurricular activities of school-age children, by selected characteristics, 1994–2000
(Numbers in thousands)
Percent participating in specified extracurricular activity
Number of children Sports Clubs Lessons
Characteristic 6 to 11 years 12 to 17 years 6 to 11 years 12 to 17 years 6 to 11 years 12 to 17 years 6 to 11 years 12 to 17 years
1Married includes married, spouse present and married, spouse absent (excluding separated).
2For families with incomes reported.
3Number of children varied by activity depending on those reporting valid answers and were approximately 19.4 million 6- to 11-year-olds and 17.6 million.
SOURCE: Terry A. Lugaila, "Table 6. Extracurricular Activities of School Age Children by Selected Characteristics: 1994 to 2000," in A Child's Day: 2000 (Selected Indicators of Child Well-Being), Current Population Reports, P70–89, U.S. Census Bureau, August 2003, http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p70-89.pdf (accessed September 16, 2004)
Total children, 2000 24,581 23,697 30.6 37.2 33.8 34.4 32.0 26.2
Sex of child
Female 11,998 11,526 24.4 32.5 36.0 37.5 36.8 30.2
Male 12,583 12,171 36.5 41.6 31.8 31.4 27.5 22.3
Race and ethnicity of child
White 19,340 18,678 33.4 39.2 35.7 36.4 33.5 27.5
Non-Hispanic 15,080 15,301 36.7 41.7 39.9 39.4 37.1 29.1
Black 4,061 3,745 20.6 30.5 27.6 25.0 25.4 19.4
Asian and Pacific Islander 846 834 20.4 25.7 27.1 31.5 36.0 33.1
Hispanic (of any race) 4,520 3,683 21.5 28.0 20.2 22.9 20.7 20.3
Marital status of parent
Married1 17,858 16,787 34.7 40.2 37.2 37.9 36.1 29.3
Separated, divorced, widowed 4,047 5,431 25.1 30.3 26.7 27.7 22.5 19.8
Never married 2,676 1,480 18.6 28.3 22.1 19.1 20.0 14.2
Parent's educational level
High school or less 11,990 11,665 23.5 29.6 24.9 26.2 21.5 19.6
Some college 4,385 4,110 31.1 40.1 36.0 37.6 35.1 28.6
Vocational or associate degree 3,236 3,420 35.1 39.8 40.9 39.6 37.6 29.1
Bachelor's degree 3,784 3,063 42.9 49.3 47.9 46.7 50.0 37.7
Advanced degree 1,186 1,440 48.9 58.4 52.8 52.6 54.6 41.2
Poverty status2
Below poverty level 4,379 3,476 15.9 24.9 22.8 23.2 18.6 17.9
On or above poverty level 19,663 19,861 34.3 39.6 36.6 36.6 35.3 27.9
100 to 199 percent of poverty 5,956 5,353 24.1 30.7 27.2 29.5 23.7 20.8
200 percent of poverty or higher 13,707 14,508 38.7 42.9 40.7 39.2 40.3 30.5
Total children, 1998 24,095 23,345 31.7 39.4 34.4 35.3 30.8 26.9
Total children, 19943 19,426 17,665 34.3 42.2 38.8 42.5 23.7 19.1
  • Listening to FM radio (10.1 hours/week)
  • Listening to CDs or tapes (9.5 hours/week)
  • Hanging out with friends (8.6 hours/week)
  • Talking on the phone (local calls) (6.2 hours/week)
  • Exercising/working out (5.1 hours/week)
  • Doing chores/running errands (4.3 hours/week)
  • Reading magazines for pleasure (2.8 hours/week)
  • Reading newspapers (2.5 hours/week)

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about 3 years ago

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almost 3 years ago

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