Raise your hand if you’ve worried about how much your kids do in a given year and if you are ruining their lives. Come on – you over there. As soccer season kicks off and schedules get busier, it’s a common concern. Joel Maners passed on a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that debunks the common belief that our kids are over scheduled:
we have some data about how kids spend their hours. In recent years, researchers from the University of Maryland have analyzed findings from the continuing Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which documents children’s time use. They found that teens spend 30 of their weekly 168 hours in school. With the 12- to 18-year-old set sleeping 65 hours per week (a little more than nine a day), that leaves 73 hours for other things. Homework took up a mere 4.9 of these hours (about 42 minutes a day), and sports 3.9 hours. “Organizations” (like youth groups) filled 1.2 hours.
These are, of course, averages. Some children spend more time playing sports or doing homework, but some do less, too. Joseph Mahoney, an education professor at the University of California, Irvine, estimates that about 40% of children aren’t involved in any activities.
Emphasis mine. You’d think by now most of us would be used to the over sensationalism of our media today. Those of us with soccer players, especially travel soccer players, put our kids at huge risk every time we put them in a car to go somewhere. Yet many parents fear kidnapping or assault by a stranger the most, something about as likely to happen as getting hit by lightning. All because of these individual horror stories the media latches on to. Many of us struggle to look at these things in terms of ‘acceptable risk‘ and instead believe a problem is rampant because something happened to someone in another state and the media latched onto it. The same holds for the idea that many kids have no down time. Yet few people actually do the math to see how much free time their kids may have, and even in extreme cases where kids are doing things non stop – that may be just what they need.
I have four children. They all play soccer (and usually basketball), and are doing or have done other activities in the past. We have family members who tell us how we’re hurting them because they do ‘too much’. There’s no question our lives are busy. Yet contrast that with summer – where they would sit and watch TV day after day if allowed. Even during school, they have time to relax and overall they seem to be having fun and staying busy. Do they groan once in a while about not being able to watch TV? Sure. But take away those activities, and you know exactly what they would be doing day after day (“Are you ready kids?” Ugh!).
All kids are different. Just like coaches are taught about ‘slanty lines‘ and challenging kids of all different athletic abilities, parents should try to do the same when assessing their own kid’s schedules. Ignore the media hype and do what seems best for your own child’s temperament and abilities.