Forty per cent of children, some as young as six, complain of a boring life, a survey of callers to a hotline has found. They are loaded down with homework, see little of friends and relatives and sometimes only communicate with their parents by leaving notes on the fridge, researchers say. The help and advice hotline operated by the Boys' and Girls' Club Association of Hong Kong received 5,719 calls last year (from April 1999 to March 2000), 94 per cent from children under 12. Peace Ma Chor-man, who ran the hotline, was surprised at the results. 'We gather most of them don't have many people to play with. All they have is loads of homework.' She said many Hong Kong families were small, with only one or two children. 'However, the time that children share with their parents is very short. Most of the parents have to work until very late. Even when they are home, they keep asking their children to do their homework and seldom play with them.' She advised parents to put aside more time to play with their children. 'When they do, they should play 'hard'. In some cases I know, parents play with their children but they do not do it with their hearts. They are not communicating with their children.' Daisy Yew Ching-Sheung, another counsellor with the group, said in some cases children could only communicate with their parents by leaving notes on the fridge. She said the small social networks of most of families also made children feel bored. 'In a number of cases that I came across, it was not only the children who said they were bored but also their parents.' Chan Kwok-yin, supervisor of the hotline, said the quality of life experienced by many families was poor. 'The family members rarely sit down together to have dinner. Even when they do sit together, they just watch the television, they seldom chat with each other. No wonder the children are bored.' The group said when a child complained of being bored, they would suggest reading a book, drawing something or talking to their friends. 'Anything that can help them to pass the time, to divert their attention. But, frankly, in most of the cases, these suggestions all fail to help these children,' Ms Chan said. She criticised the education system and said teachers failed to help children to enjoy meaningful lives. 'In the past, our teachers would keep saying to us to plan something, to set a goal, then try hard to reach it. But it seems that this is a remote thing in the present education system. 'Even parents fail to explain to their children why they have to study hard. They just tell them it will enable them to get a good job or become rich.' Ms Chan urged all families to try to expand their social networks as the long summer holiday approaches. 'They should let their children meet more people. And most importantly, help them to develop a life-long goal. Without it, lives can be meaningless.'