Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 17:01 UK

Join a new club: 'Am I bovvered?'

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Some teenagers value their social life above all else

Youngsters are often too rebellious, lazy or shy to participate in after school clubs otherwise viewed as a good thing, research suggests.

The government-backed study looked at barriers to children taking part and divided them into six groups.

These included the "not-bothereds", the "authority rejecters" and the "shy and lacking in confidence", along with those who put friends above all else.

Ministers urged local councils to let youngsters know what was available.

The researchers for the Department for Children, Schools and Families found a general acceptance across the age range that organised activities were a good thing, but that many lapsed or rejected them as they grew older.

This was often due to peer pressure, real or imagined.

'Authority-rejecters'

One group, referred to as "friends first", became less interested in activities such as sports clubs or dance classes as they were more and more keen to spend as much time as possible with their friends.

They would ditch the dance classes to go out with their mates or feared committing themselves to something that could infringe on their social lives.

One teenager said: "Your mates are what it's all about aren't they. You don't want them laughing at you for doing ballet or whatever?"

Those categorised as the "not-bothereds" lacked motivation to get involved.

One 13-year-old girl told researchers: "When you're nine you can be bothered but not at our age."

"Authority rejecters" were more confident teenagers or younger rebellious types who disliked being told what to do.

We know that word of mouth is so important in getting the message out
Children's Minister Dawn Primarolo

The "shy and lacking in confidence" were dominated by a lack of social confidence in new situations, with many saying they would need to know someone before they could join a group activity or club.

Others felt positive activities themselves were uncool.

One said: "'Positive activities' sounds like something out of the 1950s that your parents force you to do like Sunday School, that you just can't wait to get out of."

Groups labelled "open and interested" and "passionate achievers" were also identified. They tended to be more positive about such activities.

Other factors like the amount of homework children had or a lack of information were also identified as barriers. The cost of activities could also be a reason for giving them up.

Some reported that parents, though emotionally supportive, were not prepared to fund activities on top of funding leisure time.

And this could mean having to choose between activities and spending time with friends, the study said.

The researchers suggested that improving information on activities available was the best way to increase participation.

'Twitter'

But this must mean addressing negative attitudes and arousing interest and making it easy for youngsters to take a friend or try out new activities with no obligation to sign up for a series of sessions, they added.

Children's minister Dawn Primarolo said the summer holidays were a key time for councils to publicise and communicate to young people all the activities on offer.

"We know that word of mouth is so important in getting the message out so it's vital that youth centre opening times and free activities are advertised to young people, parents, teachers, and the community."

She added: "We will be holding road show events throughout the year encouraging and supporting local authorities to use new and innovative ways to communicate to young people.

"A number of local authorities already do this successfully communicating to young people via Twitter, and through schools, youth clubs, leaflets and word of mouth."



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