A family evening in a typical American home will most likely not be as hair-raising or colorful as a night at the Osbournes, but neither will it be as picture-perfect as an evening at the Huxtables. Most families fall somewhere in the middle, and perhaps that's one reason why spending time with family doesn't top the average teen's list of favorite ways to spend an evening (6%). Far more preferable -- and undoubtedly more exciting -- is visiting with friends (36%), followed closely by watching TV (23%).
These findings come from a 2001 Gallup Youth Survey* in which American teens were asked, in an open-ended question, how they enjoy spending their evening leisure time.
Girls are more likely than boys to say they want to be with their friends -- 42% versus 30% of boys. Being with friends is also more popular among older teens aged 16 and 17 (47%) than younger teens aged 13 to 15 (28%). Boys are more likely to say they most enjoy watching TV or a movie at home than are girls (28% versus 19% of girls), and younger teens are about three times more likely to give the "TV time" response than are older teens, 32% versus 11%, respectively.
Over the last 20 years, the findings from this question have always been similar in terms of spending time with family. It's no wonder that the residents of the small town of Ridgewood, N.J., recently took matters into their own hands to try to bring families closer together -- if only for one evening. As the New York Times reported, Ridgewood schools were asked not to give homework and to cancel sports practices and games on March 26 for "Family Night." Music lessons were postponed, as were all town or school meetings. Television was forbidden. As evidenced by written evaluations from Ridgewood residents, most families welcomed the chance to get reacquainted and enjoy an evening together.
If this idea catches on, perhaps spending time with family will rise to the top of teens' lists before two more decades slip by. Or perhaps not. Maybe teens' disinclination to spend time with their families is just part of a natural life cycle. When we asked adults this same question in 2001, the list had flip-flopped. Visiting with friends slid to the bottom of the list (8%), while staying home with family was closer to the top (18%), second only to the No. 1 adult pastime, watching TV (22%).
*Findings for 2001 are based on telephone interviews with a representative national cross section of 454 teen-agers, aged 13 to 17, conducted July through September 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±5%.