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School’s out!

Ahhh, the 'lazy days of summer' are upon us. Certainly, the summer months are presumed to be a time of rest, relaxation and 'No School!' But it's common knowledge that most US families live extremely scheduled lifestyles these days, so we wanted to understand whether or not kids and teens are truly taking a break from their regular activities and embracing the 'lazy' aspect of the season. In this edition of Kaleidoscope, we thought it was the perfect time to find out how eight- to 17-year-olds are spending their free time and explore their overall perceptions and thoughts about the summer.
July 23, 2010

Ahhh, the ‘lazy days of summer’ are upon us. Certainly, the summer months are presumed to be a time of rest, relaxation and ‘No School!’ But it’s common knowledge that most US families live extremely scheduled lifestyles these days, so we wanted to understand whether or not kids and teens are truly taking a break from their regular activities and embracing the ‘lazy’ aspect of the season. In this edition of Kaleidoscope, we thought it was the perfect time to find out how eight- to 17-year-olds are spending their free time and explore their overall perceptions and thoughts about the summer.

Boys and girls of all ages mostly agree that summer is the ‘best time of year,’ using words such as ‘fun,’ ‘relaxing’ and ‘exciting’ to describe what the season means to them. Summer also means ‘vacation time,’ ‘family time’ and ‘friend time.’

Though we know from other research that kids generally enjoy their classes, a highlight of their summer includes ‘being out of school,’ almost doubling the response to things such as ‘going swimming’ and ‘having more free time.’ In fact, it was hard for kids to name only one thing they like so much about summer, as evidenced by this 10-year-old boy who said, ‘Not having to do schoolwork and getting to go places is the best [thing about summer]. Staying up late and sleeping in and having barbeques. Not being cold and wearing shorts!’ The exception may be tween and early-teen girls, who often said summer feels ‘too long’ and ‘lonely.’ Taking into consideration how social girls are at this stage in their lives, it’s no wonder that they’re anxiously awaiting the start of school so they can see their friends.

Overwhelmingly, kids and teens feel they have more free time in the summer than the rest of the year, proving that their hectic lifestyles are dialed down during these months. This is especially true among girls ages eight to 13, who feel they have a lot of free time to spend during summer months. ‘The best part of summer is having time to go and see family and not feel rushed about getting home on time,’ said one 12-year-old girl. ‘When you get back from a trip, you don’t have to worry about all the work you’ll have to do when you get home. It’s like you’re still on vacation,’ she added.

While exploring whether or not healthy lifestyles are maintained in the summer, respondents told us that it doesn’t necessarily have an impact. We were curious to know how kids’ eating habits during the summer compare to how they eat year-round, and six out of 10 respondents said they eat just as healthfully during the summer. When it comes to physical activity, however, kids and teens feel they do get more exercise in the summer – particularly eight- to 10-year-old boys and girls.

Taking a look at the types of scheduled activities kid and teens are taking part in, we found that only 25% are attending a camp (day or sleep away) this summer, with the majority of them enrolled in day camps. Again, this is driven by the younger set of respondents and decreases significantly as kids move into their teen years. As for those teens who do attend, sports camps are hosting almost three times as many teens as any other age group, with the majority being teen boys. Continuing on the theme of sports, 28% of respondents said they are playing at least one organized team sport this summer, with baseball leading the way among boys and softball being tops with girls.

When it comes to vacations, just over half of the sample said they are either taking, or have taken, a family vacation this summer. As expected, summer vacation does become more common as household income increases.

Summertime isn’t all about the outdoors for kids and teens, either.Their media consumption also increases, with 58% of respondents saying they feel they watch more TV in the summer, followed by 53% who report playing video games more, and 49% saying they watch more DVDs and theatrical movies during the season. When taking a closer look at online activity, kids and teens consistently feel that they spend just as much time in the summer doing things online as they do throughout the entire year. The exception to this is playing online games, which all ages and both genders agree they do more of in the summer.

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