Screen off, Go play outside!

By Josh M.

Technology has had a substantial change since the 1900’s to now, not only has its growth been linear some would argue it’s been exponential. The discovery and manufacturing of mobile devices, personal computers, software, and equipment have elevated the accessibility to information instantaneously across the globe, therefore, elevating, even more opportunities for innovation and technological possibilities. With all this accessibility to information, devices and media there have been many positive impacts on the population as well as many negative repercussions.

Specifically, my article will focus on the positive and negative impacts of technology on youth in the years of 2000 to 2016. First is accessibility, with technology being so widely accessible, youth have been able to learn and understand technology at a much faster rate than those from previous generations. Youth today are showing their grandparents how to answer emails, access programming and interact through media, the primary reason being because of the already large amounts of screen youth have access to their everyday lives. This means that youth today have a much better understanding of technology and are ahead in their education of software and tech devices. On the other hand, youth have also become dependent on technology and ignoring important learning and the basics of simple task management that don’t involve technology such as cooking basic food, social interaction skills, differentiating between right, wrong, true and false information. Technology has replaced the need to go out and explore, experience and discover, therefore limiting youth to their home. This has limited social growth, mental and physical development in youth that outdoor interaction would otherwise cultivate their personal growth and talents.

My personal experience with technology as a child involved superhero video games and movies, I remember looking forward to the new batman cartoon movies or playing my spider-man game on my game system after school. After spending more than a couple of hours on video games and tv my father would then chase me out of the house and encourage me to go play outside, thankfully I did, because looking back now I realize that I really did have more enjoyment playing outside then watching a screen.

The Canadian sedentary guidelines list that children should only spend two hours per day maximum of sedentary behavior but statistics have consistently stated that children have been exceeding far more than the guidelines requirements, and the main reason being access to technology. According to the 2016 The Participation Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth a total of 76% of 5- to 19-year-olds in Canada report watching tv, personal computer access or video games, and reading during after school period (based on a subsample of the 2014-15 CANPLAY, CFLRI) (ParticipAction, 2016).

In conclusion, technology has been a tremendous impact on the world and has benefited society greatly, however it lacks the fundamental opportunities that provide youth with important personal and developmental growth opportunities that technology cannot provide. This issue could be addressed by limiting youth access to devices and making them focus instead on tech free environments experiences, or another option would be to use device access as a reward for accomplishing the requirements parents have set for them.

References

ParticipAction. (2016). Participation. Retrieved from Participation.com: https://www.participaction.com/sites/default/files/downloads/2016%20ParticipACTION%20Report%20Card%20-%20Full%20Report.pdf

Posted in Adolescence, Media, Outdoors/Nature, Positive Youth Development, Technology | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Benefits of Implementing Physical Activity in Family Life

by Tabitha G.

What is one of the biggest influences in youth development? I will give you a hint. The first word of the question should actually be Who, not What. This ‘Who’ wants more than anything to teach their youth how to live a fulfilling life. In the next few paragraphs, I will be explaining how a physical lifestyle can benefit these kids, especially if this ‘Who’ chooses to make it a part of their own lives first.

If you haven’t guessed already, the ‘Who’ that I was referring to are the parents of these youth. A parent’s job is to teach, love and raise his or her kids. They have the role as nurturer, mentor, friend, guardian, role model and, of course, #1 fan. As for the child, growing up is a very significant time in his life. Even after he moves out of the house, most of what he has learned growing up will stick with him for the rest of his life. The writer Downward speaks on the outcome of an experiment of his, saying: “The results indicate clearly that intergenerational transfers between adults and their children can be very strong…”(Downward, Hallmann & Pawlowski, 2013). He is saying the same thing; Children are shaped by their parents’ influence. Therefore, it is very important for these parents to choose wisely what they will implement in the home, including the context of  sports and exercise.  In this blog, I will be discussing  how parental involvement in physical activity benefits their kids’ lives.

Here are the major benefits that I have found to be true, when exercise is prioritized in the family life: 1) healthy life 2) knowledge and skill 3) character development and 4) family bonding. Each one will be discussed in turn.

The first benefit of daily exercise that I will discuss is how great it is for your health. If a parent lives that out, the kids will see it, and it will influence the way they relate to exercise in their own lives.  My father is a Phys Ed teacher and my mom was a fitness trainer, so both exercised daily when I lived at home. This taught me to view exercise as a way of life, rather than a sporadic hobby, for example. The way my parents valued exercise transferred to me as I saw their dedication to it. Some commonly known benefits of exercising are reduced risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as a longer lifespan. These benefits are mentioned by Alison While in her article. She mentions a study which found “that every additional 15 minutes of daily physical activity resulted in a further 4% reduction in mortality risk from any cause…” (While, 2011). Knowing the risks of not exercising, and seeing the dedication of your parents can greatly influence a youth’s readiness to exercise. Getting into the habit during adolescence can make a huge impact on one’s health in the long run.

Knowledge and skills are a benefit, also. Since my parents both worked in healthy lifestyle environments, they brought their assets home. Only until my Kinesiology classes in University did I realize how much I already knew about living a healthy active lifestyle, thanks to them. Even if one does not make a career out of sports and healthy living, knowledge in this area can be very useful in living his own healthy lifestyle or  teaching his own children.  Skills also come in handy when volunteering or playing with kids. On a few occasions, I have had the opportunity to teach some kids different sports skills that I had learned from my parents when I was their age.

Certain aspects of character development is another benefit that comes from a family that values exercise. The main one that pops into my head is Sportsmanship. You may be surprised to hear this, but I learned my sportsmanship skills when playing sports with my family more than I did on my sports teams. The competition was fierce between my siblings and I, and it was too easy to react in a losing situation by pouting or getting angry when there was only family around to witness it. I learned a lot from those games that I lost. Especially from my father, who taught us the mentality “winning is not everything, but try your hardest.” Some of the other assets that I learned through those games were perseverance, practice and focus.

Growing up in a family that values sport creates unique bonding opportunities. It is a way to connect with each other through a mutual interest. Family sports activities were a big way that my family grew closer. We would go to the gym with our dad, and play sports with him. With our mom, we would go biking and jogging. A couple of years ago, we rented a cottage in the mountains for New Year’s Eve, and snowshoed and cross-country skied as a family. Sports was a great way that my family could spend time together and be physically active at the same time. In Keri A. Schwab’s article, she speaks on her research, saying “Overall the results of this study reinforce the growing conviction that family leisure is an increasingly important part of healthy family functioning” (Schwab & Dustin, 2015). She, too, sees the importance of family quality time.

It is important for parents to implement physical activity in their family life because of these reasons discussed. If they do, these youth will likely have a better quality of life because of it.

References:

Downward, P., Hallmann, K., & Pawlowski, T. (2013). Assessing parental impact on the         sports participation of children: A socio-economic analysis of the UK. European Journal of Sport Science, 14(1), 84-90.

Schwab, K.A., & Dustin, D.L. (2015). Toward a model of optimal family leisure. Annals of Leisure Research, 18(2), 180-204.

While, A. (2011). Health and Happiness. British Journal of Community Nursing, 16, 462-462.

Posted in Parents, Positive Youth Development | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Pick me! A look into coaching and favoritism

By Jordan M.

I grew up surrounded by sport my entire life. I have played all the different sports one could imagine as a youth in Canada. There was one common trend I always noticed whether it was a team or individual sport. That common trend was favoritism.

The first time I noticed this happening was in hockey because the coach was also the father of one of the players. His son was by no means the best player on the team, but he got the most playing time along with his two best friends. I never really minded it until the few times that it was my rotation to go on the ice and the coach kept me and a few others benched to let his son and friends play. A study done by Weiss and Fretwell (2005) from the University of Virginia showed that a child who is coached by a parent is going to have more pressure put on them to perform at a higher level than the other players on a team. This connects to children being excluded from playing because of the coach focusing so much on their own child. This is something I have witnessed time a time again.

Later on in my youth, I started playing tennis. I started a lot later in life than the other players who had been playing since they were five or six. I worked on my game for years to catch up to them and ended up being in the running for the 2009 Canada Games. The head coach was also the father of one of the players and the father would always show a high level of favoritism towards his son over the other players. When Canada Games training would occur, I would not get the invite because he only took the players he wanted to participate. When the tryouts finally happened, I came in third place and the two players who beat me were the two my coach would give special attention to. I felt like I never had a chance to be successful due to this treatment and it caused me to lose my passion for the sport.

Favoritism goes beyond what the coaches are doing and can even be linked to referees all the way up to the professional level. A study found that referees will have a bias for their home team due to social pressures from the crowd (Garicano, Palacios-Huerta, & Prendergast, 2005). This can be related back to coaching because as a coach myself, I too, at some points, feel social pressures from parents to spend some more attention to their child. This social pressure also stems from putting a higher priority on winning rather than enjoying what one is doing. I have observed this more than a handful of times back in my youth when I did team sports. The best players would always play more because my coach wanted the team to win instead of allowing all the children to have their fair time playing the sport.

In conclusion, every athlete has dealt with favoritism at one point or another. It is something that parents, coaches, and other athletes need to stop in order for athletics to keep its fun and inclusive environment. Throughout my life, I have learned to deal with favoritism but I fear for that one child who will not to how to cope and will drop out of sport because of it. If sport does not feel like home than the children will not play.

“Our homes travel with us. They are wherever we feel loved and accepted.”
― Kamand Kojouri

References

Frank Jacobs, Froukje Smits, Annelies Knoppers. (2016) ‘You don’t realize what you see!’: the institutional context of emotional abuse in elite youth sport.

Garicano, L., Palacios-Huerta, I., & Prendergast, C. (May 01, 2005). Favoritism Under Social Pressure. The Review of Economics and Statistics

Stewart, C. (January 01, 2013). The Negative Behaviors of Coaches: “Don’t Be This Guy!”. Physical Educator

Weiss, M. R., & Fretwell, S. D. (September 01, 2005). The Parent-Coach/Child-Athlete Relationship in Youth Sport: Cordial, Contentious, or Conundrum?. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

 

Posted in Coaching, Positive Youth Development | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Sports and Homeschooling

By Heath R.

What is homeschooling?  According to Green and Hoover-Dempsey (2007), homeschooling is defined as, “the education of school-aged children at home rather than in public or private school settings…”  I was homeschooled all through my youth but that did not stop me from participating in sports.  As a homeschooler, it was quite difficult for me to participate in sports because all of the other kids would participate in sports through their designated school.  However, I was determined and resilient that I would one day play a sport with my friends.  Although this may not be the same type of resiliency that was talked about in class, I found that it was difficult for homeschoolers to participate in sports with their friends who were in the public school systems.  Because homeschoolers were excluded from certain activities, it would open up the door for scholarships and the ability for public or private school kids to play sports in college.  However, my parents showed great family support and eventually found me organizations that homeschoolers could participate in.

Another factor that played into my role of dealing with not being able to play sports with all my friends was the intrapersonal aspect of sports.  The major factor of the intrapersonal factors was my self-motivation. My self-motivation helped me motivate myself to try to find different sports programs that would allow homeschoolers to play. Eventually, I was able to find a homeschool basketball league which played local private school teams.  In one of the articles it talks about how self-motivation is not a fluctuating thing, but rather a stable personality.  Having self-motivation also helped me for whenever I would have a bad game in a sport I would play.  Self-motivation was also helpful when doing academics because I strived to do better and improve my knowledge of the subjects.  Once I found out that I could not play sports with my friends my self-motivation for sports and school increased.  Another intrapersonal factor that I dealt with was coping. As a homeschooler it was quite lonely to be left out of the group with my friends who were playing sports.  Because of the loneliness, I had to cope with this and figure out how to get over this loneliness.  This was quite difficult because most of my friends were busy playing sports, however the people who helped my through this were my parents.  My parents were able to motivate me and help me through this stage in my youth.  Although this loneliness was difficult, I was able to be resilient because I wanted to eventually play sports.

Although homeschoolers may not have the same resources as public or private school kids, if they show resilience and self-motivation they will find programs that will accept them.   Thankfully, I was able to push towards my goal of becoming an athlete like my friends.  My self-motivation also excelled me towards playing university sports.  Throughout my youth as a homeschooler sports were always my way of coping with stress or loneliness.  If it wasn’t for sports I do not know how my social interactions with other peers would have been.

Resources:

Green, C & Hoover-Dempsey, K (2007). A Systematic Examination of Parental Involvement. Why Do Parents Homeschool?, 39, 264-265.

Iso-Ahola, SE (1995). Intrapersonal and interpersonal factors in athletic performance, 5, 191-194.

Posted in Positive Youth Development | Tagged , ,

Youth and Mental Health: The Positive and Negative Effects of Sport.

By: Nicola S

Mental health has become a major issue among youth impacting their development. From class lectures, researchers have proclaimed that between 10-20% of youth are effected by mental illness such as anxiety, depression, bi-polar, and schizophrenia. This number continues to grow with the external pressures youth entail of social media, peers, school, sports, etc. The scariest part of mental disorders and youth is that only 1 in 5 children who need mental health services actually receives them. Mental health is not always obvious, especially among youth. They will hide it in order to feel “the same” as their peers, but this unfortunately can lead to one of the leading causes of death; suicide. Sport is known to help foster positive youth development, but what people don’t know is that it can also have negative correlations with regards to youth’s mental health when used incorrectly.

Positive impacts of sport on youth’s mental health:

There is evidence that suicide and sport have a strong enough connection among youth. Tatz (2012) explains the positive relationship between sport and Aboriginal youth. He proclaims, “Sport is a major element in contemporary Aboriginal life: it provides meaning, a sense of purpose and belonging; it is inclusive and embracing in a world where most Aboriginal youth feel alienated, disempowered, rejected and excluded” (p. 922). Youth who feel this sense of alienation or the feeling of being “different” often look to team sports to provide them with an identity and many other benefits. Youth may use sport to bond with peers, to pursue an interest, for the physical benefits, or even just for a distraction. In my own personal experience, growing up involved in numerous team sports and having different groups of friends from each team, I used sport as my happy place when I was feeling pressures from school. It was, and still is, a place to clear my head when necessary. Scully et al. (1998) defends my beliefs by stating, “The psychological explanations of why exercise enhances psychological well-being include the following: enhanced feelings of control, improved self-concept, self-esteem, self-efficacy and more positive social interactions.” It was hard growing up seeing other youth who didn’t find an interest in sport feeling bored on weekends when they didn’t have any games. Personally, I believe this boredom can lead to youth having too much time to think or engage in activities that may have a negative impact on their mental health as well as their development. When used properly, sport is a beneficial technique to reduce mental health issues regarding youth.

Negative impacts of sport on youth’s mental health:

Although there are many positive aspects with regards to youth and sport, there can be some negative outcomes if sport is used incorrectly with youth. Children and adolescents may face enormous risks from sports due to their incomplete physical and emotional developments. For example, McMullen (2014) states that, “Hard training and healthy eating can cross the line to exhaustion and eating disorders, encouraging players to do their best can slip into pushing players to the point of injury and harm, and attempts at team bonding can morph into bullying or hazing” (p.181). It is easy to see that these positive components of sport can lead to negative correlations for a youth’s fragile developing mental health. For example, throughout my teenage years I witnessed several cases of youth, girls in particular, with an “addiction” to working out. They were addicted to eating “healthy” and exercising constantly to the point where they were overly self-conscious and had self-esteem issues. In this case, these youth used exercise incorrectly which reflected negatively on their mental health. An activity done in class explains youth’s emotional development. It suggests that the emotional brain centers are developing earlier than other brain regions, which can result in erratic, dramatic or challenging behavior. Sport has its ups and downs and can leave youth feeling upset over an individual performance or a team loss for example. As these brain centers are in the process of developing, youth struggle with accepting these challenges and it can impact their self-confidence resulting in possible mental heath issues.

In summary, there is a challenge in balancing the positive and negative impact sport has on youth’s mental health so that maximum benefits can be produced. With supportive adults, peers, and interests, youth can form an identity through sport and resist the effects of mental illnesses.

References:

McMullen, J., G., Addressing Abusive Conduct in Youth Sports. Marquette Sports Law Review. 25.1 (2014): 181-206.

Scully, D., Kremer, J., Meade, M.M., Graham, R., Dudgeon, K., Physical exercise and psychological well-being: A critical review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 32 (1998), p. 111-120.

Tatz, C., Aborigines, sport and suicide. Sport in Society, 15 (7) (2012), p. 922-935

Posted in Positive Youth Development | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Tough It Out Kiddo

by Darrion S.

It is no secret there are numerous benefits associated with sports. Although there may be negative consequences picked up from years of sport, such is life where good will inherently parallel bad to an extent. Throughout nine years of wrestling I have put myself through unhealthy dieting to make weight classes, pushed myself in practices that would lead me to puking, and have accumulated multiple injuries all over my body. A wrestling match is a physical competition between two competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position. Basically, I get on the mat and I either kick butt or get my butt kicked. Wrestling represents one of the oldest forms of combat, relying on discipline, courage, stamina and strength. To be a successful competitor, you have to devote so much time and effort into the sport that it becomes a lifestyle. I will deviate from wrestling examples to establish that sport in itself is what can inspire resilience in youth; however, from personal experience there is nothing quite as satisfying as throwing a person off their feet after persevering through combat training.

White and Bennie (2015) state that sport presents an opportunity for young people to experience the joys of success and cope with setbacks to develop resilient behaviours.  I am a firm believer of sport being a positive influence within the lives of youth throughout all stages of childhood and adolescence. Being part of extracurricular activities such as judo and wrestling have been positive influences throughout my childhood and I continue to reap physical and mental benefits from participating in amateur sport. I contribute most of my resiliency throughout life’s’ hardships to sport as it has fostered my ambition, attitude and focus.

My mother put me into sports because of a history with anger management issues in the family; however, since I began my identity in sport as a judoka, I have never experienced issues with a lack of emotional restraint. Growing up, there were times I wanted to quit my sport, yet I stayed because I wanted to enjoy my community of a teammates while building on skills to win more competitions. I have a competitive personality and I have often referenced sport as my contribution to coping skills. If I cannot win a situation out of my control, I aspire to control a match that I will win. White and Bennie’s (2015) study demonstrated that coaches and athletes believed young people developed resilient behaviors during gymnastics training and competition; By creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere at gymnastics sports clubs, training became a distraction from outside stress. Although I may not have realized it at the time, there were instances growing up where I practiced mindfulness while dealing with frustrating situations because I was taught respect and patience through judo training.

Developmental assets forged through training in sports results in various coping skills for youth to carry with them outside of the gym. As an athlete, I am constantly setting goals which is a useful strategy for increasing motivation and persistence when encountering challenging situations in sport. Developmental assets such as responsibility, integrity, and personal power are formed when a goal is worked for and met. In a study done by Lipowski, Lipowska, Magdalena, and Krokosz (2016) analyzed factors protecting youth from risky behavior. It was found that adolescent athletes on a competitive basis showed significantly higher levels of resiliency than their non-athletic peers. While dealing with large stressors in my life, I turn to exercise as an outlet or distraction; the stress of competing and training are familiar and comfortable as I have spent most of my life coping with them already. If we consider a young athlete as a person being exposed to a vast number of stressors (training-related effort, demand for success, expectations of spectators, parents, coach) on a daily basis, then the ability to respond flexibly to difficult situations and to perceive them as challenges to be solved in a task-oriented manner is somehow intrinsic to the life of every athlete.

Sports can be seen as a snapshot of one’s discipline and willingness to dedicate themselves to something over an extended period of time. Sports have taught me to be resilient; it continually re-programs the mind to work through physical and mental pain and exhaustion. It forces youth to set goals and reach them, making failure the learning curve for success; they provide experiences where youth have to be able to handle last minute negativity and self-doubts. My influential sport was judo and is now wrestling; they have helped holistically shape my character and identity. You have to believe in yourself and have the self-confidence to wrestle your own match, rather than let your opponent dictate how the match goes. Therefore, my resiliency to stay in wrestling has shown me that I am the dictator of my own my life; it has given me a breadth of challenges to overcome and learn from, allowing me to be faithful in my integrity.

References

Lipowski, M. Lipowska, M., Jochimek, M., & Krokosz, D. (2016). Resiliency as a Factor Protecting Youths from Risky Behaviour: Moderating Effects of Gender and Sport. European Journal of Sport Science: The Official Journal of the European College of Sport Science, 16 (2), 246-255.

40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents. (n.d.). Retrieved October 05, 2016, from http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18

White, R. L., Bennie, A, (2015). Resilience in Youth Sport: A Qualitative Investigation of Gymnastics Coach and Athlete Perceptions. International Journal of Sports Science Coaching, 10 (2/3), 379-393.

Posted in 40 Developmental Assets, Adolescence, Children, Positive Youth Development, Sport | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

A Different Lens: Active Video Games

by Brian E.

As a kid, I spent a lot of my time involved in almost every sport I could sign up for. All year round I was involved in practices, traveling to tournaments, and being introduced to new coaches and social environments. By being always on the go, I was drawn to the appeal of video games as a hobby which made up for much of my down time between sports. It was just an extra thing that allowed myself to express my competitive nature, but also served as a time to relax and unwind. However, I ask this question: can video games actually be beneficial for children/adolescences?  Well, after dedicating many hours of personal experience to the cause, I hope to shine some positive light on video games.

Thanks to the wonderful development of technology, we have options known as active video games (AVGs). Examples of these games are Wii Fit, DDR, Kinect sports, all which require some sort of physical activity to play. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that regular physical activity reduces the chance for childhood obesity. Adolescences spend much their time with sedentary activities during the day, most of which consists of screen time. With the use of AVGs, youth have been able to maintain excitement and enjoyment for games, while benefiting from the physical activity aspect. Heart rate and VO2 max are some reported factors that were higher dealing with AVGs versus other sedentary behaviors (Gao 2015). In addition, heart rate was reported slightly higher than results from physical activities done in a laboratory setting. It is important to note adolescences also reported more liking and enjoyment with AVGs over sitting video games and watching television.

Self-esteem, out of the 39 other assets covered in course material, relates the best to AVGs. When I was in high school, we had dance in gym class that everyone had to participate in. As you may guess, not everyone was good and most had no interest in participating. Think of the AVG “Just Dance” in comparison, which is a game that requires the individual to perform dance moves shown on the screen. With a score based on timing and right movements, the pressure is on. I mention the score as it reflects your grade received in the game; and lucky you, there is no limit to how many times you can try that dance to achieve your best. What better way to boost self esteem than having yourself as the opponent. This specific activity has no consequences or judgements for failing other than the game’s score and the perceived individual’s feeling. Oddly enough, Gao (2015) found that by playing AVGs, adolescences report a higher expenditure of energy opposed to other physical activities.

Although AVGs prove to be effective in improving sedentary behaviors in youth, they should be used in moderation and not in place of traditional physical activity. Looking at the 5 C’s of positive youth development (confidence, competence, connection, character, caring and compassion) and comparing these to AVGs, confidence is the only true benefit. Confidence relates to self esteem, as it is gained from being successful within the activity. To fix this problem with AVGs, I suggest that schools, community centers or summer camps adopt some sort of AVG activity like the ones mentioned. This could allow opportunity to grow in areas of connection and character as the AVG activities would not be confined to a home setting.

It is important to the development of AVGs that teachers, parents, counselors, and adults in general are educated further on the subject. Thus, traditional physical activities and AVGs can be interrelated, which have both been proven beneficial to youth. I feel that there needs to be more research done that looks at age specific populations, the type of AVGs they are engaging in, and what effects those games have over a longer period of time versus the effects of sport. As I said, AVGs should not be the main means of physical activity, but research suggests it is a positive tool in the development of adolescences. With more research, education and integration, active video games serve a purpose that can help turn down time into healthy experiences.

References:

Personal experiences

Class material

Gao, Z., Chen, S., Pasco, D. and Pope, Z. (2015), A meta-analysis of active video games on   health outcomes among children and adolescents. Obes Rev, 16: 783–794.

Posted in 40 Developmental Assets, 5Cs of Youth Development, Positive Youth Development | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments