Neither Too Idle Nor Too Harried

Have they been too busy to read the articles about how dreadfully over-scheduled they are? A new Public Agenda poll of kids in grades 6-12 finds a majority are comfortable with the number of activities that occupy their time (see the chart). Perhaps that’s because the activities are fun. Among them: 66 percent of the kids participate in sports; 62 percent in school clubs or extracurricular activities; 60 percent in volunteer work; 54 percent in religious instruction or church youth group; 52 percent in lessons (music, dance, etc.); and 52 percent in after-school programs. In rating such pastimes, 85 percent agreed that kids who participate in organized activities after school are “better off” than kids who don’t; 91 percent agreed that “belonging to a club or team and doing things with other kids gives me a good feeling.” Eighty-five percent “usually have a lot of fun” doing the after-school or weekend activity to which they allot the most time. Meanwhile, many kids lack faith in their capacity to make good use of unstructured time: 36 percent said that “when they do have free time to do whatever they choose, it usually ends up being wasted time.” As it is, kids find time to hang out, and not always in the most wholesome locations. When asked to say where you’d find “the greatest number of kids after school and on weekends,” 44 percent said “the mall.” That easily surpasses the number who cited “a playground or sports field” (29 percent) or “a community center” (8 percent).