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A Day in the Life

The way adolescents spend their time can strongly influence their health later in life. For youth to maintain a healthy future, they need plenty of sleep; good nutrition; regular exercise; and time to form relationships with family, friends, and caring adults. Additionally, the time adolescents spend in school and in after-school activities with peers and adults can advance healthy academic, emotional, social, and physical development. Adolescents also are influenced by their exposure to media and their increasing use of social media.

The detailed information in the American Time Use Survey, collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, provides a picture of a day in the life of a high school teen, comparing time on a typical school day and time on a weekend day during the school year.

How do U.S. high school students spend their time each week?

All Adolescents

The majority of an adolescent's day is spent in sleep and education, with small amounts of time allocated for media/communications, leisure, eating/drinking, grooming, playing sports, religious activities, working/volunteering, and other activities.

Males

The majority of an adolescent's day is spent in sleep and education, with small amounts of time allocated for media/communications, leisure, eating/drinking, grooming, playing sports, religious activities, working/volunteering, and other activities.

Females

The majority of an adolescent's day is spent in sleep and education, with small amounts of time allocated for media/communications, leisure, eating/drinking, grooming, playing sports, religious activities, working/volunteering, and other activities.

Source: American Time Use Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013.

  • Sleep. Once adolescents reach high school, they ideally need eight to 10 hours of sleep for healthy development. On average, high school teens get an appropriate amount of sleep on weekend nights (an average of almost 11 hours), but they sleep considerably less on week nights (8.6 hours).
  • Education. On average, high school teens spend almost seven hours each weekday (and 1.1 hours each day on the weekend) on educational activities. This includes attending classes, participating in extracurricular activities (excluding sports), and doing homework.
  • Media/communications. Adolescents spend a substantial amount of time on media and communications activities. These include watching TV, playing video and computer games, surfing the internet, listening to or playing music, and using cell phones to call or text friends and others. High school teens spend an average of 2.3 hours on these types of activities on a weekday and 4.3 hours per day on weekends.
  • Leisure. Although adolescents are busy with school, they also spend a sizable amount of time in leisure activities, such as socializing, pursuing hobbies, reading and writing, and attending arts or sports events. High school teens spend 1.4 hours a day on leisure activities on an average weekday and 1.9 hours a day on weekends.
  • Sports. Time spent actively playing sports can contribute to teens’ daily requirement for one hour or more of physical exercise.1 High school teens spend an average of 0.7 hours a day (about 42 minutes) on sports on weekdays and 0.9 hours a day on weekends.

Differences in time spent by high school males and females

High school males and females spend about the same amount of time in class, doing homework, eating and drinking, and working. However, they do spend their time outside of these activities in different ways.

  • High school males. On average, high school males spend about one more hour per day on media and communications activities than females on both weekdays (2.9 vs. 1.8 hours) and weekend days (4.8 vs. 3.8 hours). They also spend more time playing sports on both weekdays (0.9 vs. 0.5 hours) and weekend days (1.2 vs. 0.5 hours). On weekdays, high school males get an hour more of sleep than females (9.2 vs. 8.2 hours, on average).
  • High school females. On an average weekday, high school females spend more time than boys on both leisure activities (1.7 vs. 1.1 hours) and religious activities (0.1 vs. 0.0 hours). High school females also spend more time on grooming on both weekdays and weekend days (1.1 vs. 0.7 hours, on average for both weekdays and weekend days).

Time spent on educational activities

Activities

Weekdays (in hours)

Weekends (in hours)

Males

Females

Males

Females

Total

6.6

7.0

1.0

1.3

High school classes

5.5

5.6

0.0

0.1

Homework for high school

0.9

1.2

0.9

1.0

Extracurricular activities (excluding sports)

0.2

0.1

0.1

0.0

Other classes

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.1

Other educational activities

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.1

Column numbers may not add up to total because of rounding
Source: American Time Use Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013.

High school teens spend time on a variety of educational activities, which include attending classes, participating in extracurricular activities, and doing homework.

  • During weekdays, most of their educational time is spent in high school classes (5.5 to 5.6 hours a day, on average).
  • High school males and females spend roughly an hour per day on homework, on both weekdays and weekend days (0.9 to 1.2 hours per day).

Time spent on media/communications

Activities

Weekdays (in hours)

Weekends (in hours)

Males

Females

Males

Females

Total

2.9

1.8

4.8

3.8

Watching television or videos

1.8

1.3

3.2

2.8

Playing games or spending time on a computer*

0.8

0.3

1.3

0.7

Listening to or playing music (as primary activity)

0.1

0.1

0.2

0.1

Communications: phone, texting, email

0.1

0.1

0.1

0.2

Column numbers may not add up to total because of rounding
*Does not include time spent checking email or watching videos.
Source: American Time Use Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013.

Adolescents spend a substantial amount of time on media and communications activities, including watching TV, playing video and computer games, surfing the Internet, listening to or playing music, and using cell phones to call or text friends and others – many of these at the same time.

  • While high school males spend more time on the computer than high school females, all adolescents spend most of their media/communications time watching TV and videos. On the average weekday, females watched 1.3 hours of TV and videos, and males watched 1.8 hours. On weekends, they both watch around 3 hours a day.

Time spent on leisure activities

Activities

Weekdays (in hours)

Weekends (in hours)

Males

Females

Males

Females

Total

1.1

1.7

1.8

2.1

Socializing and social events

0.8

0.8

1.2

1.3

Attending arts or sports events and exhibitions

0.1

0.4

0.4

0.2

Relaxing and thinking

0.1

0.2

0.1

0.3

Doing hobbies

0.1

0.0

0.0

0.1

Reading or writing (not homework)

0.1

0.1

0.0

0.1

Other leisure activities

0.0

0.2

0.1

0.1

Column numbers may not add up to total because of rounding
Source: American Time Use Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013.

High school teens spend a substantial amount of time in leisure activities, such as socializing, pursuing hobbies, reading and writing, and attending arts or sports events.

  • On an average weekday, high school students spend 0.8 hours just socializing or at social events. High school females spend 0.4 hours attending arts or sports events, and 0.2 hours just relaxing and thinking (compared to 0.1 hours, each, among males).
  • On an average weekend day, high school students spend 1.2 hours socializing and at social events. Females spend 0.3 hours relaxing and thinking (compared with 0.1 hours among males) and 0.2 hours attending arts or sports events (compared with 0.4 hours among males).

Who are high school students spending their time with?

Activities

Weekdays (in hours)

Weekends (in hours)

Males

Females

Males

Females

Alone

3.5

2.7

3.5

3.0

Friends*

1.8

2.5

2.1

2.2

Family*

2.9

3.8

5.5

6.1

Customers, clients, coworkers

0.3

0.5

0.3

0.5

Any child care

0.5

0.8

0.8

1.3

Note: Does not include time spent sleeping, grooming, or doing personal activities
* Does not include time spent working
Source: American Time Use Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013

In addition to understanding how adolescents spend their time, it is important to understand who they spend time with. Time spent with family can be important for mental health and cognitive development, while spending time with peers is important for healthy social and emotional development. Though spending too much time alone can be a warning sign of depression,2 having some alone time can help teens relax and build independence. Data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows with whom high school students spend their time.

  • Time with family. On average, both females and males spend more time with their families on weekend days than weekdays (an average of 2.6 more hours for males and 2.3 hours more for females). High school males and females spend a similar amount of time with family on weekend days (5.5 to 6.1 hours per day), but high school females spend more time with their families than males on weekdays (3.8 vs. 2.9 hours per day).
  • Time with friends. Males and females spend similar amounts of time with friends (1.8 to 2.5 hours per day on weekdays and 2.1 to 2.2 hours per day on weekends).
  • Time alone. High school males spend more time alone than females on weekdays (an average of 3.5 hours per day compared with 2.7 hours), but they spend a similar amount of time alone on weekend days (3.0 to 3.5 hours).

Footnotes


1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Retrieved June 4, 2018,  https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html
2 Mental Health America. (2013). Depression in Teens. Retrieved January 6, 2016 from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/depression-teens
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on July 17, 2018