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The Freedom of No Screens: The Importance of In-Person Programs for Youth

By YWCA Minneapolis
April 5, 2021
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April 5, 2021

Strong Fast Fit is a YWCA youth fitness program designed to educate and empower youth to live healthy and active lifestyles.

During the first few months of the pandemic, we attempted to deliver the Strong Fast Fit program virtually but found it unsuccessful due to technology issues – not all families have internet connection or the devices for youth to participate. We discovered other ways to maintain contact with the families, though. We called and checked in, provided support and resources if needed, and created activity kits and dropped them off for families.

A Feeling of Disconnect Online

Starting the program back up, we quickly found that even when youth could meet online, it wasn’t ideal. Some days, youth were very active — and some days, they were lethargic or distracted, asking to be excused or acting indifferent to the learning. Youth participants themselves said they felt a disconnect online and they had trouble paying attention. As a program designed around physical activity, cooking and playing, a 100% virtual format just wasn’t working.

Bringing In-Person Programming Back

We decided if there were ways to bring youth into programming in person, we should try. Strong Fast Fit was fortunate to bring back in-person programming during the summer, fall and spring at a smaller capacity rate by adhering to necessary safety protocol to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for youth and families. We found that our youth were more consistent in coming to the program than meeting online.

Youth and parents have been more enthusiastic with in-person sessions; youth are more talkative, engaged and participate more in activities.

The Freedom of No Screens

As adults, we might think that the younger generations today are more comfortable with online environments and more adaptable to them. But, meeting in person is very important to youth for communication, mental well-being and peer socializing. It allows youth to interact freely without a screen in front of them.

A Range of Happy and Excited Emotions

Youth said that meeting in person is more fun because they get to talk to people, instead of meeting online where “we just stare at each other.” They said meeting in person gave them a range of happy and excited emotions and many things to look forward to – socializing, playing sports with one another, being active and having freedom to move.

Here are a few recent things youth have said about Strong Fast Fit:

“I get to communicate with people.”

“Being here is the BEST.”

“I love being here in Strong Fast Fit; it’s my go-to place for happiness.”

We are proud that Strong Fast Fit has provided youth a bit of respite from screens while they were distance learning at school. The program has remained a space of fun, learning, movement and stability for youth during a year of change.