Huge loads of homework is probably harming kids way more than it is helping
Any kid anywhere in the country would probably tell you that doing homework sucks. But now the Better Sleep Council (BSC) has the results of a new survey that shows that there’s real evidence to strongly back up teens’ opinions on the matter. Not only are kids spending huge amounts of time working on homework each week, they’re also getting super stressed out about it, and losing vital sleep in the process.
And to top it all off? The teens who spend the most time and energy stressing about homework see their grades suffer for it.
To come to their conclusions, the Better Sleep Council surveyed just over 1,000 high school kids, ages 13 to 19, about their homework habits, their sleep habits, and their stress levels.
When it comes to homework, they found that the average teenager spends over two hours each night on homework, while 40 percent of kids spend three or more hours at home hitting the books. It all adds up to about 15 hours each week outside of school, with many kids doing 20 or more hours each week — the equivalent of a half-time job.
At the same time, kids are stressed about their schoolwork. Grades, tests, and homework were far and away the greatest stressor for students, ranked above peer pressure, parental pressure, self-esteem issues, trauma, violence, and bullies. Over three out of four students felt stress related to their academic success.
Both large amounts of homework and large amounts of stress were tied to less sleep. A shocking 67 percent of kids reported only getting 5-7 hours of sleep per night (teens need 8 or more for their healthy development). It seemed that the more homework kids did, the less sleep they got, and the more disturbed sleep they reported. Kids who were worried about homework also reported having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
The kids who fared best academically? The ones who reported doing less homework and feeling less stress, who also happened to be the kids who reported better and longer amounts of sleep.
Kids who got lower grades were kids who got the worst quality sleep – those who stayed up past 11 PM, got up before 6 AM, or both. Many of the kids who spent the longest on work, by sacrificing sleep, saw their grades slip.
“We’re finding that teenagers are experiencing this cycle where they sacrifice their sleep to spend extra time on homework, which gives them more stress — but they don’t get better grades,” Mary Helen Rogers, the vice president of marketing and communications for the BSC, told People.
The BSC recommends that kids choose sleep over homework in order to improve their stress levels and grades. Specifically, they say that putting screens away and having a set bedtime and bedtime routine are keys to healthy sleep. However, the schools themselves likely need to take a hard look at their homework policies and curriculum to help kids reduce their stress levels and improve their sleep. Some elementary schools have taken up a “no homework” rule, and parents are torn — but it’s too early to know if that extreme is working or not.
What we do know for sure? Mountains of homework only hurts kids’ schedules, mental health, and sleep hygiene, not to mention their ability to learn and achieve.