This is the age of being busy. Many of us live in busy places and have busy lives. Even the roads are busy as we try to get from here to there. Adults are busy going to jobs and taking care of their families. Kids are busy, too, going to school and doing lots of stuff after school and on the weekends.
Busy isn't bad, necessarily. If you're not busy enough you might be bored. But if you're too busy, you might feel overwhelmed. For instance, if you have a soccer game that runs late on a school night and you haven't eaten dinner or done your homework, that's a not-so-fun kind of busy. We wanted to know what kids thought, so we did a KidsPoll about being busy with 882 girls and boys ages 9 to 13.
Almost all of them (90%) said they felt stressed because they were too busy. About half said they felt this way once in a while or some of the time. But 17% said they felt this way most of the time and 24% said they felt like this all the time! Oh dear, that's no fun.
Only 4% of kids said they wanted less free time and 18% said they already had just the right amount. But, no big surprise, 61% of kids wish they had a lot more free time. If they had more time, most would spend it hanging out or playing with friends.
So if a kid wants more free time, how can he or she get it? Here are the steps to follow:
Take a look at how you spend your time now.
Think of ways you could rearrange stuff or cut out some things to have more time for others.
Talk to your mom and dad about your free time and your schedule, especially if you feel too busy.
Step 2 is figuring out how you might rearrange or drop certain activities to have more time for other stuff. For instance, on the Monday schedule, you can't cut out dinner, but maybe you'd like to play a game from 8 to 9 instead of watching TV before bed. You might say, "But I always watch TV before bedtime." That's OK if you do — and if you want to keep doing it — but you don't have to do it that way.
Often, adults plan large parts of a kid's day, especially during the school year. You can't tell your parents you'll be skipping school today to get more free time! But you can tell them that you'd like to play a game or read a book during your free time instead of watching TV.
Sometimes, kids get to make the decisions. Just like you sometimes get to decide how to spend your money, you might decide how to spend your time. Did you ever get $20 for your birthday and you went to the mall or out to an amusement park, and before you know it, the money was gone? Maybe you bought something to eat, played a few games, and bought something small, like some jewelry or a toy.
Where did your 20 bucks go? It got eaten up by little things and, maybe, if you had it to do over again, you would have made different decisions about what to buy and what not to buy. When you make careful choices about spending money, it's called budgeting. Good news! You can budget your time, too.
In some cases, a kid can budget his or her own time. For instance, a lot of kids told us they spend more than 3 hours a day watching TV, playing video games, or using the computer for fun. That's time that a kid could use for other things, like going outside, reading a book, drawing, or listening to music.
But sometimes, a kid will need help from a parent. Almost 40% of kids said they participated in three or four activities. For some kids, that might be too many. Mom or dad can help a kid figure out if it's time to cut out one of those activities or make some other change.
Mom or dad also can help if you want to change the way you spend your free time. If you want to hang out with a friend more often, a parent might have to drive you somewhere or agree to host. Or, if you want to work on your arts and crafts or play whiffleball outside, mom or dad will need to get you the supplies you need.
The best approach is to find a good time to talk and politely ask for the help you need. Here's a request your mom or dad will like hearing — that you'd like to spend more of your free time with one or both of them. Tell your mom or dad, "Instead of you being busy and me being busy, let's be busy together!"
The group that took this KidsPoll included an equal number of boys and girls. They answered the questions on handheld data devices while visiting these health education centers and children's museums:
Children's Health Education Center — Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Health World Children's Museum — Barrington, Illinois
Kansas Learning Center for Health — Halstead, Kansas
McMillen Center for Health Education — Fort Wayne, Indiana
Robert Crown Center for Health Education — Hinsdale, Illinois
Ruth Lilly Health Education Center — Indianapolis, Indiana
Saint Joseph Mercy Health Exploration Station — Canton, Michigan
Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center — York, Pennsylvania
Weller Health Education Center — Easton, Pennsylvania
A poll, like the KidsPoll, asks people a list of questions. Then researchers compile all the answers and look at the way the group answered. They calculate how many — or what percentage — answered "yes" to this question and "no" to that one. Polls give us clues about how most people — not just the ones who answered the poll questions — feel about certain issues.
We'll be conducting more KidsPolls in the future to find out what kids say — maybe you'll be part of one!