Teens spend of on average 6.5 hours a day on screens of all sizes, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Foundation. Kids spend an average of 9 hours a day on media--so this includes listening to music, which is not included in the screen time figure (Common Sense Media recent survey). To reduce screen time, the screen time hours need to be replaced with other activities. Afterschool programs are one solution to helping kids find interests outside of social media, online content and video games.
One myth about kids is that they are over-scheduled and deserve downtime. In fact, according to The Afterschool Alliance’s “American After 3 p.m.” study, 40% of kids the U.S. do not have access to afterschool activities, which means that disadvantaged kids are spending much more time online than advantaged kids.
Afterschool programs not only offer ways for kids to spend time away from screens, they often actively discourage their use. My daughter’s ballet school, for example, doesn’t allow use of phones in the dance studio. If students absolutely must make a call or send a text, they can do so during the break but never in the studio during class. Our son plays sax which is impossible to do while holding a phone!
Research from the Afterschool Alliance found big improvements in school attendance and better test scores when kids have activities after school. The more often a child attends an after school program and the longer the program lasts, the better the academic outcomes. Children’s behavior improves as well as their self esteem.
Check out the Afterschool Alliance’s America’s Afterschool Storybook to see how these programs can change lives. A few examples include a young woman who took her first judo class through an afterschool program and is now a national champion and a young man who started dancing at age 11 at the Wooden Floor, a nonprofit dance studio in Santa Ana, CA.