Children who attend after school programs may perform better in reading and maths tests, according to a new report.
The latest research from the Economic and Social Research Institute's Growing Up In Ireland study found children who participate in activities such as sports and cultural pursuits have higher test scores than those who spend their free time watching TV.
However, the study noted those who are categorised as having "busy lives", with a wide range of hobbies, also perform less well in school.
It found there are differences between the leisure activities of rural and urban children, with those in cities more likely to have busy lives and use social networking sites.
There was also a gap between youngsters of different social groups, with the report noting: "It is a matter of policy concern that children from less advantaged backgrounds are less likely to engage in the kinds of out-of school activities which appear to enhance academic performance."
This week, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn encouraged parents to be actively involved in their children's leisure time and not allow the television to be used as an "electronic baby-minder", the Irish Independent reported.