Ontario Child Health Study, 2014
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The school experiences of children aged 4 to 11, whether academic or social, are important to understanding their overall well-being. How children spend their leisure time outside of school can also be important for their well-being, as it allows them to develop social skills and peer relationships.
Data from the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study are now available. These data provide extensive information on the overall health of children and can be used to examine academic performance, interactions with peers, screen time and participation in social activities among children living in private households in Ontario. For children aged 4 to 11, information is provided by the person who has the most knowledge of the child's circumstances, typically a parent or guardian.
According to parents, most Ontario children are doing well at school
Parents reported that most Ontario children aged 4 to 11 (81.0%) were excellent or good students and were doing "very well" or "quite well" at school, while another 15.4% of students were average and doing "pretty well." On the other hand, fewer than 4% of children were below average or poor students and doing "not too well" or "not well at all" at school, according to their parents.
Children attending school in Ontario can receive enhanced instruction because of exceptionally advanced intellectual, athletic or artistic abilities. They may also receive special education or resource help for a learning disability or a physical, emotional, behavioural, or other learning need.
According to the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study, 5.4% of Ontario school children aged 4 to 11 received enhanced instruction and 10.8% received special education or resource help. Boys were more likely than girls to receive special education or resource help (14.2% versus 7.1%). Boys and girls received enhanced instruction in similar proportions.
Children who do well at school are more likely to participate in activities outside of school
How children spend their time outside of school may also impact their social skills development and their interactions with other children.
More than three quarters (76.2%) of Ontario children between the ages of 4 and 11 took part in organized sports or physical activities with a coach or instructor outside of school at least once a month. Similarly, 77.8% participated in unorganized sports or physical activities without a coach or instructor. Boys were more likely than girls to engage both in organized activities (77.9% versus 74.5%) and unorganized activities (80.8% versus 74.7%).
Close to 1 in 4 children (24.2%) participated in clubs, groups or community programs with leadership (that is, programs led by adults) such as Beavers, Sparks or church groups, at least once a month. Additionally, more than a third (35.1%) took lessons or instructions in music, art or non-sport activities at least once a month. Girls were more likely than boys to participate in clubs or groups led by adults (25.5% versus 23.1%) as well as music, art or similar activities (40.9% versus 29.7%).
Children who were reported by their parents to be doing "very well" or "quite well" at school were also likely to engage in physical activities and non-sport learning outside of school. Among children reported to be excellent or good students, almost 8 in 10 (78.0%) engaged in sports or physical activities with a coach at least once a month, compared with over 7 in 10 (73.4%) average students and just over 6 in 10 (61.2%) below average or poor students. Excellent or good students and average students were equally likely to participate in sports or physical activities without a coach outside of school at least once a month (78.3% versus 78.2%), but were more likely to participate in this activity than below average or poor students (69.9%). A larger proportion of excellent and good students took music, art and other non-sport lessons (37.3%) than average students (27.0%) and below average or poor students (30.0%), who were equally likely to participate in these learning activities at least once a month outside of school.
Parents report that almost one-third of children are picked on by other children
Peer relationships provide children with support and companionship and can have positive effects on a child's social development and academic experiences. However, difficult peer relationships can have negative impacts on a child's learning and development.
Close to two-thirds of Ontario children between the ages of 4 and 11 (65.4%) got along very well with their friends and classmates, according to their parents. On the other hand, almost one-third of children (30.1%) were reported by their parents to be picked on by other children at least "a little" while at or outside of school. Boys and girls were equally likely to be picked on by other children.
Younger children were reported to be the least likely to be picked on, with 20.7% of four-year olds and 23.2% of five-year olds being affected. Among children between 6 years of age, when most Ontario children reach Grade 1, and 11 years of age, about 1 in 3 were picked on by other children.
While most children were reported to be doing well at school, many who were not doing well academically also appeared to be struggling socially. Of the less than 4% of children who were reported by their parents to be below average or poor students, just over two-thirds (67.3%) were picked on by other children compared with less than half (44.0%) of average students and just over a quarter (26.3%) of the good and excellent students.
In Ontario, half of 4- to 11-year-old children in special education programs (50.1%) were reported by their parents to be picked on by other children, compared with 28.1% of children not in this type of program. On the other hand, children receiving enhanced instruction because of advanced abilities were less likely to be picked on than those not receiving enhanced instruction (27.0% versus 30.6%).
Children who do not get along well with their peers are more likely to have at least two hours of "screen time" each day
Almost all (99.8%) Ontario children between the ages of 4 and 11 spent at least some time each day in front of a screen, whether it was using electronic devices (95.3%) or watching television, movies or videos (99.2%). Boys were slightly more likely than girls to use electronic devices (96.6% versus 93.9%), however they were equally likely to watch television.
While fewer than one-quarter of Ontario children (21.9%) spent two hours or more per day using electronic devices, almost one-third (31.8%) watched television, movies and videos for two hours or more each day.
A greater proportion of children who did not get along well with other children, according to their parents, spent two hours or more each day using electronic devices (32.4%) and watching television (39.0%) than children who got along pretty well with others (24.7% and 33.7%) and children who got along quite or very well with others (21.4% and 31.4%).
Note to readers
The 2014 Ontario Child Health Study covers children aged 4 to 17 living in private households in Ontario. Children living in collective dwellings, as well as households on Indian reserves, are excluded.
The person most knowledgeable answered on behalf of children aged 4 to 11, whereas children aged 12 to 17 responded to the survey directly.
In Ontario, as in many other provinces and territories, students who have educational needs that are not met through regular instructional practices can be accommodated with programming that is modified above or below age-appropriate grade level expectations. For more information, visit the An introduction to Special Education in Ontario page of the Ontario Ministry of Education website.
In this article, when two estimates are said to be different, this indicates that the difference was statistically significant at a 95% confidence level (p-value less than 5%).
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