5.4.6 Measure young people’s time use to understand safety, work, and well-being

When designing youth-focused programming, one key step is to understand where the target beneficiaries are throughout the day, so as to know when and where to engage them. This has implications for program implementation on many levels—for knowing where children can easily access services, understanding how much control they have over allocating their time, and responding to safety issues that may impact how they move between different environments. In addition, time use among young people is frequently related to deeper issues of values and well-being.  For those reasons, studying time-use can provide valuable information to design appropriate, targeted interventions that meet children and youth’s needs and respect their circumstances.

The best source of information about time-use is the youth themselves. Children as young as eight can work together in groups to describe how they spend their time. With youth groups, a facilitator can provide a framework and instructions before stepping away to provide the youth with space for private discussion. Underscoring the importance of engaging children directly, STRIVE program research in the Philippines with households engaged in seaweed and weaving livelihoods activities revealed a difference between what parents and children reported in terms of activities and time spent per week in those activities. Parents tended to report that children spend more time in school and less time engaged in economic activity and household chores than did children themselves.

New Tool: FHI 360 Shares a Child Mapping and Time Use Tool for Participatory Rapid Appraisal

While there are several time-use tools, a quick, efficient tool for measuring how youth spend their time is through participatory rapid appraisals (PRAs), which use mapping and day/time grids and photos or drawings of places and activities. These tools are particularly important when programs: (1) have a limited amount of time to engage with beneficiaries before design or evaluation, (2) work with illiterate populations, children, or youth for whom surveys or other tools may not be as appropriate, (3) need to understand both individual and group level dynamics.

At the 2012 Conference, FHI 360 presented a PRA tool designed to chart child time use, which was tested in the Philippines research described above. The tool utilizes maps, time tables, and drawings to understand the complex environments in which children live. In about one hour, researchers using the tool can understand:

  • Where youth are and when
  • The routes and means of transportation between locations/activities
  • Where and when interventions might be located
  • Where safety might be an issue
  • How target beneficiaries perceive time and value their current activities

The tool can be used in combination with other PRA tools.  After getting informed consent from parents and participants, facilitators work with participants to identify how and where they spend their time. The key elements of an effective PRA include:

  • Selecting places where youth/children spend time
  • Mapping the community
  • Linking places (routes, transport modes, time)
  • Allocating time spent per location
  • Expressing what activity is most important to youth/children

Minimal supplies are required: poster board, markers, photos, and tokens (to represent time). A good facilitator and a safe place are all that is needed for success. For more information, see the STRIVE Child Time http://microlinks.kdid.org/node/6431.