Did you know:
- Children and teens are more likely to be the victims of crime during the after-school hours than at any other time?
- Children and teens are more likely to participate in violent crimes during the after-school hours than at any other time?
- Children and teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as tobacco, alcohol or drug use or sexual activity during the after-school hours than at any other time?
Is it any wonder that psychologist and law enforcement officers have denoted the hours after school until parents get home the Witching Hours?
Parents today are busy. We work long hours to provide for our children in an increasingly expensive society. Our young children often attend after school daycare or programs provided by their elementary schools, but by the time children reach middle school they're are often left on their own after school.
It seems sensible enough. They're old enough to get their own snacks and open their books to complete their homework. They know who to call if they have an emergency. But are they old enough to be at home, unsupervised? Studies from California, New York, and other areas make it clear that adolescents need after-school activities and supervision, too.
If you have adolescent children that are arriving home alone after school, you're probably rethinking that now. But what can you do?
These same studies show that children who spend only a couple of hours per week in extracurricular after-school activities are significantly less likely to drop out of school; use tobacco, alcohol or drugs and become teen parents. Spending 5-19 hours per week in after-school activities reduced the risk even further.
It is important that these activities aren't just time wasters, but are programs that help children develop skills and values and provide them with experiences that mean something to them.
It doesn't take a lot. Most schools offer a variety of after-school clubs, sports and activities. Encourage your children to find something that interests them and participate regularly. If your school doesn't offer much, your children can't find something they like, or they don't make the team, look outside the school for activities.
- Community sports such as Little League, American Youth Football, YMCA soccer, etc. offer sports on a less competitive, more inclusive level than varsity High School Sports.
- Boys and Girls Clubs of America provide a safe, educational environment for children of all ages.
- 4-H offers some great club activities as well as a specific 4-H After School program
- For a creative child, look at local museums, dance studios, or theaters for Art and Performing Arts Programs.
- Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts offer children an opportunity to explore a variety of activities while learning values.
- Volunteering gives children a sense of accomplishment and helps them focus on other instead of themselves.
The Witching Hours can pose serious threats to children and teens left alone after school. Even teens benefit from structured after-school activities. It's 3pm. Do you know where your children are?