Estonian boys read for six minutes a day

A boy reads.
A boy reads. Source: John Morgan/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Some studies claim that Estonian children do not get enough sleep and exercise, bur the time-use survey conducted by the office of national statistics reveals that children exercise precisely the WHO-recommended amount of time and get adequate sleep. Young people, however, read very little.

Statistics Estonia conducts time-use surveys every ten years, with the most recent data spanning the years 2019-2021.

The study looked at two age groups: 10 to 14-year-olds and 15 to 24-year-olds.

Jana Bruns, project manager at Statistics Estonia, said on Radio 2 "Pulss" program that young people in Estonia tend to have about seven hours of free time daily, excluding school and sleep. Working adults, for instance, have less than five hours of free time per day.

The majority of young people's free time is devoted to playing. They enjoy playing dolls and hide-and-seek, in addition to computer games. This includes both playing alone and with others. This is followed by watching videos and television.

The poll found that boys aged 10 to 14 played for an average of two hours and 11 minutes daily, compared to 64 minutes for girls. "This is a significant difference. Both groups' playtime decreases with age. Men 15 to 24 years old play for 1 hour and 21 minutes, while females play for only 14 minutes," Bruns said.

How do young women use their free time? According to Bruns, young girls perform more housework than boys, but they also devote more time to studying.

While boys and girls spend roughly the same amount of time studying between the ages of 10 and 14, girls study for one-third as long as boys.

Bruns said that if you compare the time spent studying 20 years ago, young people now study for an hour more. "I haven't come up with a satisfactory explanation. My colleagues and I were discussing how there are now simply more opportunities for education. For example, you can learn via the Internet," she said.

In the younger age group, boys and girls share household chores in roughly equal proportions, 47 minutes per day for boys and one hour and seven minutes per day for girls. As they age, the gender disparity widens: boys spend an hour on housekeeping, while girls spend two. Animal care, gardening, and other household chores are examples; boys primarily clean, while girls cook.

Bruns said, the general rule of thumb across all age groups is that women do more housework than men. "Boys and men are more likely to do hop and done chores, whereas women are more likely to do more routine tasks," she explained.

Men are more likely to do repair and maintenance work, while women's work seems to be cooking, the survey shows. Women and men are fairly equally likely to spend free time on shopping, gardening and care for their families.

People spent significantly more time on housework 20 years ago, Burns said, adding that this might be due to the fact that household appliances simplify and speed up many tasks.

The survey also examined the degree to which young people engage in person and online communication with family and friends. It was found that boys aged 10 to 14 engage daily for 17 minutes, whereas girls of the same age interact daily for 59 minutes.

People were asked to keep a diary and write down what they were doing in different boxes for this survey. "We think that when a boy writes down that he is playing, he might be also communicating with his friends. When two activities occur concurrently, the girl is more likely to write that she is communicating," she explained.

Young people exercise enough

While it is commonly believed that young people do not get enough exercise, according to Statistics Estonia the situation is not as dire as one might think.

The World Health Organization recommends that children aged 5 to 17 engage in at least 60 minutes of daily active physical activity. "According to our survey, 10-14 year olds get exactly 61 minutes of physical activity per day, which is the recommended amount. Young men aged 15 to 24 engage in 58 minutes of physical exercise every day, compared to 41 minutes for young women.
As people begin working, their physical activity decreases slightly, but it increases again when they approach retirement age," Bruns said.

Bruns does not believe that youngsters would mislead about their time use because keeping a diary is required for the time-use survey. "The lowest age group likely still needs parental help to fill up the journal," she said.

Likewise, the study shows that children are not lacking sleep hours and have not started sleeping less in the last 20 years. "There's talk of kids playing on their smart devices all night, but that's not really the case," Bruns said.

If one myth is true, however, it is that children do not read. This fact was confirmed by the survey: boys aged 10-14 read for an average of six minutes a day, while girls read for 27 minutes a day.

Bruns beilves that girls' higher reading rate may be because they study more. Young men aged 15-24 read for eight minutes, while girls read for 20 minutes. All kinds of reading were counted, not just reading books.

Bruns said the survey clearly showed that young people people prefer watching videos than reading. "Whereas reading provided information in the past, viewing videos now delivers the same information," she explained.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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