Good Sports

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With Phys Ed cut from public school curriculum in favor of computer class, physical activity among today's roly-poly kids is down. Children seem to prefer getting their exercise from lifting the remote to watch others play sports on the tube. According to a recent study, nearly 9 out of 10 kids (88 percent) say they watch TV sports, an equal percentage watch sports-themed movies, 76 percent participate vicariously through video games and 45 percent get their sports info online.

The Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles (AAF) and ESPN Research jointly commissioned the survey, entitled “The Children and Sports Media Study,� to better understand kids' exposure to sports through various media. The results, released in July, brought good news to both organizations, each of which has a vested interest in the sporting life. The AAF, founded on surplus funds from the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, strives to increase youth sports knowledge and participation, while ESPN aims to do so through its array of television, print, online and retail outlets. The study was conducted by Statistical Research between April and May 2001, and was based on 509 interviews with children between the ages of 8 and 17 (adults were included in 80 of the interviews).

The greatest gains in kids' sports media consumption appear to be in the relatively new area of extreme sports. Sixty-one percent of children say they watch extreme sports or The X Games on TV, up 10 percentage points from 1999; among boys, extreme sports ranks third — tied with NBA basketball. Boys, unsurprisingly, outpace girls in terms of the total percentage who consume sports media — 97 percent, compared with 89 percent. The gender divide is most pronounced in the consumption of sports video games (88 percent versus 62 percent), magazines (75 percent versus 57 percent) and books (68 percent versus 50 percent).

In general, girls favor sports in which females participate. In order of preference, girls like to watch the Olympics (88 percent), gymnastics and ice skating (78 percent each). They also enjoy watching football and basketball on TV (68 percent and 67 percent, respectively), though to a lesser extent than boys do (89 percent and 74 percent, respectively). Girls are also twice as likely as boys to watch women's basketball. By contrast, boys are fans of watching NFL football (89 percent), the Olympics (82 percent), basketball and extreme sports (74 percent each). They also watch more auto and motorcycle racing than girls do (56 percent versus 33 percent) and NHL hockey (51 percent versus 27 percent). And twice as many boys as girls watch boxing. If there's one sport that boys and girls agree on, it's soccer: 47 percent of boys and 46 percent of girls watch it regularly on TV.

While children report increased sports media consumption via video games and the Internet, the news for sports media execs isn't all good. Usage of TV, newspapers and magazines as sources for sports entertainment is down slightly from 1999. Fifty-five percent of children say they watch sports on TV at least once a week, down from 58 percent in 1999. Similarly, 29 percent consult the newspaper for today's sports, down from 33 percent two years ago. Magazines also show a slump: from 19 percent to 15 percent, with subscribers dropping from 21 percent to 14 percent. But interestingly, more kids are curling up with sports-themed books (10 percent versus 8 percent in 1999); perhaps a welcome development for ESPN, which publishes the X Games Xtreme Mysteries paperback series with parent company Disney's Hyperion books.

For more information, contact Josh Krulewitz at ESPN, (860) 766-2000 or visit www.aafla.org.

Playing Games

Kids today love the sporting life — from the sidelines, the TV screen, the computer monitor…

FREQUENCY OF ACCESSING SPORTS ONLINE (AMONG KIDS WHO USE THE INTERNET FOR SPORTS).

BOYS GIRLS
Every day 12% 3%
Couple of times a week 38% 21%
Less than once a week 46% 76%

FREQUENCY OF PLAYING SPORTS VIDEO GAMES (AMONG KIDS WHO USE SPORTS VIDEO GAMES).

BOYS GIRLS
Every day 22% 8%
Couple of times a week 50% 35%
Less than once a week 26% 54%

FREQUENCY OF VIEWING SPORTS MOVIES (AMONG KIDS WHO WATCH SPORTS MOVIES).

BOYS GIRLS
Every day 4% 2%
Couple of times a week 23% 12%
Less than once a week 72% 84%

FREQUENCY OF VIEWING SPORTS ON TV (AMONG KIDS WHO WATCH SPORTS ON TV).

BOYS GIRLS
Every day 25% 5%
Couple of times a week 56% 44%
Less than once a week 17% 47%

Source: AAF/ESPN Children and Sports Media Study

Note: numbers do not add up to 100 because not all responses are included.

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