Because education is about more than reading, writing and arithmetic, most schools and communities offer extra-curricular activities to complement learning and test-taking. This kind of activity is referred to as youth engagement, which has been shown to help teens avoid negative pitfalls while experiencing positive outcomes. According to the Canadian organization the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, youth engagement is defined as the sustained and meaningful involvement of youth in an activity focusing outside him or herself, such as community service projects, performing arts, career training/planning, politics and athletics. Teens that take part in these types of activities are less likely to commit crimes or abuse substances, and they reap benefits like increased community connectedness and better grades. A large amount of research backs up the assertion that taking part in extra-curricular activities helps kids to feel better and do better in life.
Here are some benefits of youth engagement:
1. Seventh graders who took part in planning alcohol-free school activities were found to be less likely to drink than the kids who merely attended the activities 2. Eighth grade students who were involved in well-organized after-school programs were found to be less depressed 3. A study of eighth, tenth and twelfth grade students found that participating in extra-curricular programs reduced the likelihood that students use drugs 4. Girls who participated in one national volunteer initiative were found to be 41 percent less apt to become pregnant 5. Students who took part in the school’s extra-curricular programs were five times more likely to graduate even if they struggled with social skills, academic performance or came from a poor home 6. Extra-curricular involvement reduced the chances that a student would be arrested for a crime when they became a young adult. Taking part in outside activities promotes self-confidence, socialization and a broader outlook on life. At the same time it can ward off common problems like teen depression and risk-taking behavior. Whether students are encouraged to engage in these programs in order to broaden their education, improve fitness or serve others, parents do well to encourage these kinds of pursuits. Choosing even one outside activity to which your teen can commit will yield significant long-term positives. But teens don’t have to sign up for every possible activity. In fact, over-scheduling can produce its own risks.