How do teenagers spend their days?

By Kirstin Haley

Teenagers are not sitting in front of the television all day, but they are keeping busy at other activities! The General Social Survey (GSS) collected time use data in 1986, 1992, 1998 and 2005. Time-use data examines time use over a 24 hour period on a diary day. The analysis in this fact sheet looks at time use by participation rate (number of people reporting an activity) and by the number of minutes spent on an activity1. The data show that teenagers2 aged 15 to 19 were spending less time in front of the television but were spending more time working at a paid job and using the Internet in 2005.

Among teenagers aged 15 to 19 years old the percentage watching television has decreased over the last 20 years. About 75% of teenagers in 1986 watched television, compared to 71% in 2005.  For almost all other age groups television watching has more or less stayed the same. In 1986, 15 to 19 year old boys watched an average of 3.2 hours of television a day and girls in the same age group watched 2.8 hours. In 2005, teenaged boys watched an average of 2.6 hours of television a day and girls watched 2.2 hours.

Chart 1 Decline in watching television for teens, 15 to 19 years old, 1986, 1992, 1998 and 2005. Opens a new browser window.

Chart 1
Decline in watching television for teens, 15 to 19 years old, 1986, 1992, 1998 and 2005

What else are teenagers doing with their time then? Teenagers worked, with 29% of boys and 26% of girls working during the week, in 2005. There has been a steady increase in the number of girls working at paid jobs on the weekends. While 31% of girls worked on weekends in 2005, only 20% did so in 1986. However, in 2005 girls and boys who worked at a paid job worked virtually the same number of hours on the reference day (6 hours) compared to 5 hours in 1986.

Girls reported spending more time studying than boys in 2005. Participation in, and time spent on homework is affected by cultural backgrounds, family types and education levels of parents. Teens with immigrant parents, teens that come from a two parent intact family (never divorced parents) and teens whose parents both have a university education were likely to spend more time doing homework than others. Also, teens with a demanding job (20 + hours a week) spent significantly less time on homework than those not employed3.

Chart 2 Girls reported spending more time doing homework than do boys. Opens a new browser window.

Chart 2
Girls reported spending more time doing homework than do boys

In 2005, 37% of teenagers aged 15 to 19 report doing housework (this includes meal preparation, meal clean-up, indoor cleaning, such as dusting and vacuuming, and laundry). Girls continue to participate more in housework than boys. However, the gap is closing. In 1992, 60% of girls and 47% of boys participated in housework, compared to 41% of girls and 34% of boys in 2005. Participation rates in kitchen duties were virtually the same for boys and girls in 2005 at 29% for girls and 30% for boys. Although a smaller proportion of teens were doing housework in 2005 compared to 1992, the amount of time has not changed much at 49 minutes in 1992 and 51 minutes in 2005.

Chart 3 Average participation rates for housework, 15 to 19 years old, by sex, 1992, 1998 and 2005 . Opens a new browser window.

Chart 3
Average participation rates for housework, 15 to 19 years old, by sex, 1992, 1998 and 2005

In 2000, the GSS4 collected data for the first time on Internet use. During the year 2000, the age group with the most Internet users was the 15 to 19 year old group (90%). By 2005, the GSS time use survey found that girls and boys spend similar amounts of time using the Internet for surfing, chat groups and e-mail. Time spent on the internet on a weekend day was 114 minutes for boys and 97 minutes for girls. During the weekdays, girls spent 99 minutes on the internet and boys spent 95 minutes.

Based on the GSS time use data, we have seen that the time teens spend watching television has changed since 1986. It seems that many minutes in teenagers' days are taken up with various other activities. Teens, like their adult counterparts, are spending more time working. And the gap between boys and girls participating in household chores is closing5. The demands of homework and working at paid jobs as well as the demands of home life are having an impact. Girls seem to have changed the most over the 20 years surveyed by the General Social Survey. More girls are working at paid jobs, they continue to report doing more homework than boys and they continue to participate more frequently in housework and in turn they watch less television. We have also found that over one hour and half of time during the week is spent on the internet e-mailing, in chat groups and surfing. It will be interesting to see how these trends change when we compare these data with the next GSS time use survey in 2010.


Notes

  1. Average hours are for all Canadians 15 to 19 years old averaged over a seven-day week.
  2. The population studied in this report is the population of 15 to 19 year old living in private households in the 10 provinces. The data from 1992, 1998 and 2005 were collected over 12 months of the survey year, whereas in 1986 data were only collected for two months (November and December) of the survey year.
  3. Katherine Marshall, The busy lives of teens, Perspectives 75-001-X, May 2007.
  4. General Social Survey Cycle 14, Access to and Use of information Communication technology, 2000.
  5. Katherine Marshall, The busy lives of teens, Perspectives 75-001-X, May 2007.