After school activities have always been a major concern for parents. Over the last two decades, this has been a growing concern with both parents often working, and young people having reduced supervision after school. The latest Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth paints a disturbing picture about physical activity for children and youth between 3-6 p.m., and suggests the problem is not the same problem as lamented in the past, but a growing and more concerning challenge.
Quoting from the report:
“Right now, kids are spending over 40 hours a week in front of screens,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief
Scientific Officer, Active Healthy Kids Canada, and Director of HALO. “These alarming numbers equate to a
very sedentary child, so we must transform the after‐school hours into healthy, active living time.
In part, some of this “healthy, active living time” has been diminished because of parental concerns about supervision and safety around after-school activities like running, biking, and playing outside with friends. This time is now often filled with watching television, or playing video and computer games. Increasingly, students are attending after-school programs with little or no physical activity. We see this with the rise of businesses catering to or offering more “school” after school for students — whether that be additional language training or, very often, math support.
And what do the report authors see as some of the solutions?
Getting kids outside: those who are outside take about 2,000 more steps than those who stay indoors after school
School-Community Partnerships: finding ways to offer recreational programs in school facilities, or nearby facilities after school
Youth Leadership: have students assist in the development of programs for their peers
Policy and Investment Support: target resources for the promotion of physical activity in the after-school hours
This time period is particularly challenging as there is no one group with a solution to the challenge. There are, however, roles for policy-makers, parents, early childhood educators, recreational and health professionals, and schools to play. There is overwhelming research indicating youth who are physically active improve their mental health, academic performance, contribute/maintain a healthy body weight, and develop physical literacy.
This being true, communities will need to work together to reverse the growing after-school trends. The efforts to increase physical activity during the school day are laudable. Now, we need to figure out on how these efforts can be supported between 3-6 p.m.