Extracurricular activities can make kids happier and healthier than screen time


Whether it’s sports practice, music lessons, or a casual get-together with friends, when kids participate in extracurricular activities, they’re more likely to feel happier and healthier than their stuck-up counterparts. to a screen.

In a new study by the University of South Australia and the Department of Education, researchers have found that children’s well-being is increased when they participate in extracurricular activities, but decreased when spend time on social media or play video games.

Published in BMC Pediatrics, the study analyzed data from 61,759 pupils in Years 4-9 (via the South Australian Wellbeing and Engagement Collection 2018), assessing the average number of days per week when the children participated in extracurricular activities (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.). ), and measure them against factors of well-being – happiness, sadness, worry, engagement, perseverance, optimism, emotion regulation and life satisfaction.

He revealed that most students watch television about 4 days of the school week and spend time on social media about 3 days a week.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing, one in seven children (the equivalent of around 560,000 children) suffer from a mental health disorder, with one in 10 children having worrying levels of wellbeing. .

Lead researcher Dr Rosa Virgara of UniSA says the research highlights an acute need to encourage children to participate in activities other than screens.

“Helping children develop a good sense of personal well-being is paramount in today’s uncertain environment,” says Dr. Virgara.

“This is particularly important for children of primary school age, as they learn about the challenges and risks that full-time schooling can present, but it is equally important for adolescents who face to a range of physical, social and emotional changes.

“Our study highlights how some extracurricular activities can improve children’s well-being, while others – particularly screens – can impair their mental and physical health.

“Screens are a huge distraction for children of all ages. Most parents will attest to this. And whether children are playing, watching TV or on social media, there is something about all screens that harms their well-being. -be.

“It’s interesting because you might think it’s the lack of physical movement that’s causing this, yet our research shows that doing homework or reading – both sedentary activities – contribute positively to well-being. , so that’s something else.

“In fact, we found that children’s well-being was higher when they participated in extracurricular activities – even if they already reported being happy.

“What this shows is that we need to find ways to encourage children of all ages and backgrounds to engage in activities that take them away from televisions, computers and mobile devices.”

Research also highlights distinct differences between children from low and high socioeconomic backgrounds.

Students from lower socio-economic backgrounds who played sports frequently were 15% more likely to be optimistic, 14% more likely to be happy and satisfied with their lives, and 10% more likely to be able to regulate their emotions.

Conversely, children who played video games and used social media almost always had lower levels of well-being: up to 9% less likely to be happy, up to 8% less optimistic and 11 % more likely to drop out. on things.

Children who were more at risk tended to come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, indicating a clear need for greater support in these areas.

Since many of these children have responded well to playing sports, educational initiatives and ongoing funding from government programs such as the state government’s $100 school sports vouchers might be good options.

Overall, the message is clear: gaming, watching TV, playing on computers, and browsing social media do not help create or maintain positive well-being in children.

It’s certainly a challenge, especially since most children were brought up with devices. But if families can be more aware of the issues associated with screens, then maybe we can find a better balance between screen time and other extracurricular activities.”

Dr. Rosa Virgara, Principal Investigator, UniSA


Journal reference:

Kennewell, E. et al. (2022) The relationships between schoolchildren’s well-being, socio-economic disadvantage and extracurricular activities: a cross-sectional study. BMC Pediatrics. doi.org/10.1186/s12887-022-03322-1.

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