Study Bolsters Push for More After-School Programs

A new study demonstrates that kids not only like organized after-school activities, they believe they're better off than youths who aren't participating in these activities.

A 2005 study on the benefits of after-school activities packs few surprises but a lot of punch in support of efforts to make sure U.S. children have access to out-of-school programs such as sports, music or dance.

The study, conducted by the research organization Public Agenda, finds that 85 percent of the kids surveyed believe that youths who participate in after-school activities are better off than those who do not.

The study, based on separate surveys of adolescents and parents, was commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, a learning-enrichment advocacy organization, to promote efforts to make high-quality out-of-school programs more affordable and accessible nationwide.

More than half of the 609 middle- and high-school students surveyed (57 percent) participate in an out-of-school activity or program "every day or almost every day," according to the report. Another 37 percent participate a couple of days a week, and 79 percent report taking part on both school days and weekends.

Sports ranked first as the most common after-school activity, with 66 percent of the students surveyed participating in athletics. After sports, the most common activities were school clubs; volunteer work; religious instruction or youth groups; lessons in music, art, or dance; after-school programs on school grounds or at a different location; part-time jobs; tutoring; and Scout groups or similar clubs.

Despite this, the study found that nearly 30 percent of the students surveyed are home alone after school, while 20 percent described their schedules as too hectic.

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Balancing Academics and Extracurricular Activities

A separate survey of 1,003 parents of school-age kids indicated a lack of satisfaction among low-income and minority parents with their children's out-of-school time. The majority of these parents said it was difficult for them to find affordable, high-quality extracurricular programs for their children.

The study found that kids are aware of a clear link between a lack of extracurricular activities and boredom, as well as a link between boredom and getting into mischief.

In asking about the things kids are involved in when they're not participating in after-school programs, the study found that:

  • 19 percent of the parents consider surfing the Internet a negative or even potentially risky activity for kids. The same percentage of kids who use the Internet reported that something has happened online that would upset their parents if they knew about it.

  • About 65 percent of the parents said their school-age children use the Internet at home to surf, play games and chat. More than 80 percent of middle- and high-school students reported doing this.

  • 81 percent of parents of middle- and high-school students believe their child is not hanging out at the mall. But 56 percent of the adolescents surveyed reported using the mall as an after-school "hang out."