Positive Youth Development through Extra-Curricular Activities and After-School Programs

By: Kayla P.

Youth today depend solely on technology to communicate with their peers. It’s rare to see them communicating face-to-face, even if they are in the same room. There is usually a cell phone being used to do the talking. The number of youth who prefer to spend their time indoors and lack interest in being outside playing with their peers continues to grow. In the article “Risks and Benefits of Social Media for Children and Adolescents” it states that “75% of teenagers now own cell phones, with 54% of them using them for texting, 24% for instant messaging, and 25% for social media access” (McBride, 2011). Youth are so dependent on technology that they forget what it really means to have “fun”. The goal is to introduce youth with activities and programs that will challenge them as well as open their eyes to more important things.

Positive youth development through extra-curricular activities can also have a positive school-related effect for the child. Engagement in moderate extra-curricular activities during adolescence promotes positive school-related affects and greater academic performance (Kao & Salerno, 2013). Extra-curricular activities can help youth to learn to be more social face-to-face helping them to better their social skills with peers and adults. Everything youth learn from activities or programs may help them be more motivated to do well in school, and also want to try harder. It will help them develop more positive attitudes, which could lead to better grades.

There are many different ways that coaches/leaders/teachers etc. can help facilitate positive youth development still within the school environment, but after hours. First the after-school programs must be led by positive volunteers/leaders, who can help bring out the best in each individual who takes part based on their individual needs. The instructors must show a tremendous amount of support, patience, and understanding and show them that they are open to any questions/suggestions that may arise in the program. As we discussed in class, there are many values of after-school programs; they create supportive relationships with the adults involved as well as their peers. It can also be seen as a place where youth feel safe, and also provides them with opportunities to learn.

Growing up, I was involved with the Boys & Girls Club program. I would go everyday after school and I loved every minute of it. I met so many new people, and built great relationships with everyone involved. The leaders were extremely caring, and fun to be around. They would always go out of their way to ensure each individual felt comfortable being there and encouraged them to participate in all activities. Being surrounded by such nice and caring people made it a lot easier to go every single day. I was a very shy kid but this program was extremely welcoming. They provided me with great support and were a very understanding group.

Finally, we must recognize the importance of extra-curricular activities and after-school programs and the impact they have on youth. Positive youth development (such as participating in extra-curricular activities) is fundamental for the development of a nation of healthy, happy, competent, productive, and satisfying adults (Kao & Salerno, 2013). Due to this statement, along side class material is a continuous reinforcement that extra-curricular activities and after-school programs bring positive experiences and outcomes to youth development. This being said, it is vital that youth today continue to have the opportunity to participate in these kinds of activities/programs.


Class Notes from November 6th

Kao, T. & Salerno, J. (2013). Keeping adolescents busy with extracurricular activities. The Journal of School Nursing, 30, 57-67.

McBride, D. (2011). Risks and benefits of social media for children and adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 26, 498-499.

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9 Responses to Positive Youth Development through Extra-Curricular Activities and After-School Programs

  1. lucyparkin says:

    Great post KP!

    I think you delivered some interesting information, that definitely relates to today’s society in regards to participation and technology. As you mentioned, it is unlikely to see any youth without a cell phone in their hand, regardless if they’re in the same room as their peer. Most conversations now occur through instant messaging, rather than face-to-face. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why in person interactions are now known to create higher anxiety levels? Technology is definitely impacting active leisure participation, and unfortunately that seems to be the new ‘norm’.

    Growing up I attended as many after-school programs as I could, along with organised sports. I found that playing sports with my friends, along with my teachers outside of school hours was a great way to really develop as a person, and build social connections. As you mentioned, I do believe that teachers, parents, coaches, have a responsibility to fulfill to foster positive youth development, through patience, support and an understanding of challenging situations. This given, these types of programs are essential to positive development, and something that every child has the chance to participate in. It allows youth to grow, learn and find their own values in a safe and comfortable environment, which is not always easy in today’s society. With after-school programs and extra-curricular activities offered, youth are bound to feel support, and positive experiences that will furthermore lead to positive developmental outcomes.

  2. Kirstin33 says:

    After the Recreation NB guest lecture we had today in class about After school programs, I have to agree with you in that they can help youth develop the assets and be happier and healthier if they are organized properly.
    The new Forest After School programs that are starting in NB are really taking a new approach to how to fill the void children have once they are out of school. They mentioned that youth on average have 4 hours of screen time per day, this normally would occur when they are at home after school. The critical time that children need to be in a program of some sorts is in the 3pm-6pm time frame.
    I agree with you that youth will benefit from an after school program. I would also like to add that youth would benefit even more if they were in an after school program that included some time of outside play. Since the school system tends to not include a whole lot of outside play into the routine day, it would give the youth a chance to actually experience the outdoors. Youth who get to play outside and experience these small risks (scrapping their knee etc.,) will have the opportunity to be able to develop more assets then those who do not. Giving youth the chance to play outside will increase their decision making skills (to not climb up that high in the tree etc.,) because they will have experienced that in a safe environment (after school programs leaders would be near by to ensure they are safe) and would be able to use their new decision making skills when the leaders are not around. They will also could develop a sense of belonging to their environment. If youth feel connected with the environment and the outdoors, that they are responsible and a part of it, they will be more likely to protect it when they are older.

    Lets get children in after school programs so they put down their cell phones and tablets and pick up sticks and mud. After all, a little mud never hurt anyone!

  3. mmurchie15 says:

    It is somewhat disappointing to see such a high percentage of teenagers/youth using cell phones. Although I do not see a big issue of high school aged youth having them, I do believe having a cell phone before high school is a bit ridiculous. Besides for maybe safety reasons, I do not see the reasons why youth should have them. Relying on cell phones at such a young age for communication cannot be good for developing social skills. At that age, I feel that social interactions is necessary for developing social skills. Face to face communication can help make youth feel more comfortable in social situations which could benefit them later on in life. I cannot think of any positives that communicating via cell phone have regarding positive youth development. Just talking to friends instead of texting them, knocking on a door instead of texting them you’re there, or even calling someone on the phone rather than texting is in my opinion all ways to improve social skills that youth are lacking today.

    That aside, I agree that extra-curricular activities and after-school programs are a great way to ensure positive youth development for youth. Growing up, I spent most of my Friday nights at the boys and girls club. They had an event called “teen night”, and my experiences there were fantastic. Not only was I in a safe environment with my friends and caring staff, but it kept me from staying out of trouble. If/when I have children, I hope they have the same after school opportunities that I had growing up.

    Very interesting post!

  4. chealy7 says:

    As we have discussed in many classes and throughout blog posts, children’s technology usage has rapidly increased. As you mentioned, it is unlikely to see any youth without a phone in their hand these days. Most conversations are through messaging instead of face to face. Kids growing up and getting cell phones this early in life and losing lessons on socialization skills and how to interact with others. It is honestly disappointing to see how many youth have phones at a young age. This is due to mainly parents because that would be who would be buying it for them. I feel as if they just buy them a phone to keep them entertained because parents are so busy. Buying them a phone to keep them entertained isn’t really the answer. Technology use is impacting leisure and activity participation and it is going down hill.
    I worked at the YMCA this summer doing my internship and I learned about their after school programs. I started my internship in May so I was able to see about two months of the program and then ask more questions. The critical time that children need to be an extra-circular program is from 3-6pm. I believe that extra-circular activities can help kids learn and build on their social skills with other children and adults. At the YMCA it wasn’t just doing games or activities in the classroom. They had a lot of outdoor time and would be on the playground or run around to get fresh air. Since during school time, there isn’t much outdoor play, after school time frame is the perfect time to get kids active and let loose. I learned that the staff who were in charge of the after school programs were great leaders and supportive. This is a place where youth need to feel safe, so the leader needs to be positive, trusting, and encouraging. I believe after school programs are a great way to provide positive youth development. The kids can make new friends, try new things, step out of their comfort zone and have a lot of fun!

  5. thomasmike17 says:

    I agree with Kayla in that most of the communication presently is through technology even though having a cell phone can keep us connected to people far away or safe in emergency situations. These are not the most common reasons children use cell phones as explained by the stats shared. When we talked in class about programs and how some programs keep children connected to their parents, it also diminishes the effect of unstructured play which includes problem solving techniques, risk taking and critical thinking. If children cannot learn how to start doing things by themselves, becoming more independent and socially involved with peers then they risk not developing factors required for adulthood.

    Adding to the thought of positive youth development through after school programs, it is important to recognize that the school atmosphere can still be used to teach children. However, working with children in groups and learning alongside their peers must be done in a different instructional format. Children listen all day in school to instruction therefore; I believe that having unstructured play is important for the after school program. However, you can still include aspects of learning through activities available to the children which would be up to the leader. Different spaces would also be nice to include facilitating the differences children may need in a program. As we talked about in class, depending on the child’s personality they may require alone time to rewind from the day and may require conversations to reflect on their day or a physical activity to get the child to relax. It is important for the staff to recognize these differences in a child in order to meet their requirements.
    Mike T.

  6. Great post Kayla,

    I agree with you on how terrible it is for youth to be on their phones or other forms of technology as opposed to being outside and active with their friends. I myself never had a phone until grade 10 and was always active with my friends growing up any chance I got and that helped to keep me active and continue to keep my healthy active lifestyle through today.
    When I attended Holland College before coming here to UNB during my 3rd year, I had the opportunity to work with children in my home town on PEI. This was an after school program that was held every Friday where myself and two other classmates were able to teach the youth in grades 3-6 basketball skills. This was a huge eye opener for me and I knew I wanted to work with children and give them the opportunity to play and be active everyday.

    Andrew H

  7. tristenburridge says:

    Good post, it’s definitely a strange phenomenon to always see a cell phone in a room with teenagers, even if we step back and look at any room in Fredericton there will be a cell phone in someone’s hands texting away or checking email or Facebook. I sort of picture a future where humans have lost the ability to talk and now communicate only through text messages, where emotion is lost.

    Activity outside of schools is so very important for healthy youth today, and good school sport programs help immensely. If there is some sort of reward for being on the school team, like possible rewards or recognition in front of the school. The school has to proud of the team for children to want to participate.

    Out of the school system, after school programs like the Boys and Girls club are also some of the best organizations in the world right now, helping youth stay active and happy. It’s good to hear that you had such a great time in the club and now are able to say they helped you be who you are today.

  8. laurjohn says:

    Interesting and extremely relevant post, Kay! I don’t think the importance of extra-curricular activities and after school programs can be stressed enough. It all boils down to educating the parents on the topic. Personally, my parents had me involved in every program going at some point in my childhood. This not only taught me how to play sports and to be confident but also taught me how to communicate better with people. There are no cell phones or laptops on the field or in the gym (at least not when I was younger), so we had to communicate face-to-face, no exceptions. Along with teaching myself to communicate with people, my parents always stressed and encouraged me to speak to new people, annunciate my words clearly and to be polite, no matter what. Now, we see cellphones at water breaks and even on the bench at games. I find this atrocious. It is up to the parents to teach their children how to communicate, and up to coaches and leaders to enforce what the parents are, our should be teaching their children. Extra-curricular activities and after school programs play a huge role in youth development, even with the simple things like how to communicate with people.

  9. danibhawk says:

    Great post Kayla! When you look at the statistics, there are a very small number of youth ages 5-11 that get the recommended amount of daily physical activity, and even fewer with only 5% of youth ages 12-17 get the recommended amount of daily physical activity, as stated in class. You are correct, in regards to youth benefiting from after-school programs. After-school programs, if they have the correct values, in regards to youth development, could also aid in decreasing the percent of the use of technology. I agree that we should recognize the importance of after-school programs, especially parents, and recreation professionals.

    I have had the pleasure to work in the recreation field in regards to after-school programming. I have seen the benefits and the negative aspects. It is important for parents to recognize that after-school programs, especially in regards to recreation and sport, are not just a place to leave your kids to get babysat. It is at the same importance, for people working in this field to understand that as well. I believe that if everyone understood the way that it can benefit youth through their whole life, it would make it a much more positive experience.

    I think you touched on many great points. Great blog!
    -Danielle H

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