Reading beats internet for Flemish children


A survey among nine- to 12-year-olds in Flanders has revealed that reading, sports and playing outside are holding up well against online activities

Free-time favourites

Playing outside and reading books are still more popular activities for Flemish children than chatting online and surfing the internet, according to a study by the University of Leuven.

Children were asked to list their favourite free-time activities, with playing outside listed in the top five by 63% of nine- to 12-year-olds. That was followed by taking part in sport (54%), watching TV (52%) and playing computer games (50%). Reading, at 38%, comes ahead of chatting online (34%) and surfing the web (32%).

Children were also asked to specify their favourite type of reading, with comic strips (75%) coming ahead of fiction (59%) and informative books (51%). Girls were keener readers of fiction (70%) than boys (49%), a difference not seen for other forms of reading.

However, the popularity of reading dropped off at around the time when children’s use of new media started to take off, the study said. Among 12-year-olds, the frequency of reading as well as the total amount of time spent reading was lower than among nine-year-olds, with the tipping point coming at around the age of 11.

There is no reason, though, to assume that new media are taking the place of reading, said the study’s lead researcher. “A connection has been noted, but statistically it has not been shown that one thing is the result of the other,” Professor Jan Van Coillie said.

Photo by Tim Pierce/Flickr Commons