SYF: Your Teen’s Leisure Time

Teens spend more time in leisure activities than in activities such as attending class and studying. That was the finding in a study in which teenagers were monitored by a beeper for one week. Forty percent of their time was spent in leisure activities such as socializing, sports and games, and screen activities such as television and Facebook. Thirty-one percent of their time was spent in maintenance activities such as eating, personal care, chores and errands. Twenty-nine percent of their time was spent in productive activities such as part-time jobs and school.

Some parents are concerned about the large amount of leisure time their teenagers have. It drives some parents crazy to watch their teen “waste” time or hang out around the house doing nothing. But some alone time is good for teens; they need time to reflect on their life, to think or just to daydream.

On the other hand, some teens are too busy. If your teen never has any down time between school, work and other activities; it is a good idea to reevaluate her schedule with her. The goal is for your teen to achieve a balance between being too busy and having too much free time. Listed below are some ideas shared by parents in trying for this balance.

One family has a rule of thumb for deciding if their teen has too many activities. If their daughter can keep up with her school work and get enough sleep to stay healthy, she’s probably not too busy. Your teen’s actions and comments can tell you a lot about her activity level. If your teen is getting into trouble in her free time, she needs to be busier. On the other hand, if she’s stressed out from all the demands and commitments, she needs to be less busy.

Some teens have a hard time deciding between activities to participate in. One family asks their teen to rate the activities on a scale from one to ten, how important it is to participate in each activity. This helps their teen to decide which activity she really wants to do.

Help your teen weight out the pros and cons of adding another obligation, whether it is a job or an extracurricular activity. It’s easy for teens to get overextended to the point where school or family gets neglected. Without making the decision for them, you can gently ask them to consider the pros and cons of adding to an already busy schedule. If your teen doesn’t drive yet, another consideration is transportation; and is a parent available and willing to drive for this added obligation?

If your teen is not involved in school activities; has few friends, spends an excessive amount of time on the computer, or seems to be often bored, encourage her to select one extracurricular activity. These activities are a good way to find new friends who have similar interests. It’s also been shown that teens who get involved in these types of activities at school do better in school and enjoy school more. Sounds like a win-win situation.

Additional information is available from Andrea Bressler at awb1@psu.edu; or http://clearfield.extension.psu.edu/; and your local office of Penn State Cooperative Extension. In Clearfield, the office is located in the Multi-Service Center, or by calling 765-7878. In Brookville, the office is located at 180 Main Street, or by calling 849-7361. And in Ridgway, the office is located in the Courthouse, or by calling 776-5331. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce.

Andrea Bressler, Penn State Cooperative Extension

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