THURSDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- From sports practices to music lessons to community service, American kids always seem to have plenty to keep them busy. But whether they're actually too busy -- reaching a tipping point detrimental to their mental and physical health -- remains a topic of debate.
The subject of overscheduled children has been on scientists' radar for at least a decade, said Andrea Mata, a doctoral student at Kent State University whose recent study on highly involved children was scheduled for presentation Thursday at a symposium in Montreal run by the Society for Research in Child Development.
"I think it's a hot topic right now," Mata said. "There's definitely a mix of viewpoints. So I think a lot more research is needed to find out what's going on."
The SRCD symposium will examine which children and adolescents become overscheduled, what happens at high levels of extracurricular involvement, and how factors such as school grades and aggression levels are affected.
Between 70 percent and 83 percent of American children and teens claim to take part in at least one extracurricular pursuit, spending an average of five to nine hours per week in structured activities, according to the SRCD. Only 5 percent to 7 percent, however, devote more than 20 hours per week to these activities.
Jean Twenge, author of the book Generation Me and a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, said data gathered between the 1950s and the 1990s indicated overscheduling rose during that period and then leveled off.
"Are kids really overscheduled? It's not the average experience, but that doesn't mean it's not a problem," Twenge said. "Parents worry about keeping up, but it's certain types of parents who worry about it."
Twenge said the ever-mounting competition for admission to the nation's top colleges compels s
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