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Amusement arcades help identify teen needs.

Previous research has shown that there are many motivations to visit arcades for teenaged youth. Video arcades provide a vehicle for competition and status within teenage peer groups. Furthermore, arcades have been noted as places where teens can hang out and meet their friends. The areas have been described as symbolic of adult leisure and are generally free from adult surveillance. This study surveyed virtually all 11- to 16-year-old youth in a community in England, 460 participated. Fifty-two percent of the youth surveyed were female, 48 percent were male. The study examined arcade addiction, parental attitudes toward arcade use, motivations to visit arcades, and what was liked/disliked about arcades.

Amusement arcades were found to be important leisure sites for adolescents. Sixty-six percent of the youth had visited an arcade in the past year, 25 percent visited arcades at least once a week, and 9 percent visited arcades three times a week or more. Those who visited the arcades most frequently lived within walking distance of an arcade. Arcades were more frequently attended than any other indoor leisure sites for young people (including hobby clubs, youth clubs, Scouts, pubs, discos, theaters, and churches). Motivations to visit amusement arcades included: to meet friends or hang around (58 percent), play the machines (56 percent), to watch others play (38 percent), out of boredom (30 percent), and to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol (6 percent).

When asked in their own words what they liked/disliked about amusement arcades, the youth indicated that they liked arcades because they were a good place to meet friends, it was a fun atmosphere, it provided a place to go in the winter (out of the weather), and to escape (from pressures, parents, school, etc.). Things they disliked about the arcades included spending too much money on the machines, the managers who would not let them stay if they did not play, the noise and smoke, and the negative influence of drug dealers and other "bad people."

Implications for camp

While amusement arcades are not found in most camps, it is important to recognize the influences of these types of establishments on adolescents as a camper population. Camp staff often wonder how to reach teens, and discuss among themselves the difficulties in knowing what adolescents want. One of the important results of this research relative to camping is understanding adolescent motivations for engaging in one type of leisure over another. The primary motivation for participating in this type of leisure activity, and the most frequently mentioned aspect of arcades which was liked, was to meet friends and hang around; it was implied that this occurred without adult supervision. It was the opportunity for unsupervised time with their peer group that teens sought.

The adolescents in the study mentioned smoking, drinking, and the negative influence of bad people as arcade elements they disliked. This might indicate that teens seek time with friends which is unstructured and without overt adult influence in a (relatively) healthy atmosphere. Camp programs can provide activities and environments that address these identified teen needs. A designated teen center could be established at camp where activity choices are monitored, yet unstructured. Counselors are often relatively close in age to teen campers and might be acceptable as covert adult supervision.

The study also reported that 30 percent of teens surveyed indicated they went to the arcades out of boredom. Camping can teach socially appropriate and healthy lifelong leisure skills to address the notion that there is nothing else to do. Socially positive activities that receive the approval of peers are not only needed, but easily within the realm of most camp programs.

Fisher, S. (1995). The amusement arcade as a social space for adolescents: An empirical study. Journal of Adolescence, 18, 71-86.

Building self-esteem

Self-concept or self-esteem has been said to be a factor of many external influences on a child. This study examined the relationships among achievement (in school), socioeconomic status (SES), and seven dimensions of self-concept (self-esteem) in fourth-graders. The 392 children who participated in this study lived in Mississippi and represented many different geographic and sociocultural areas across the state. Fifty-two percent of the study participants were Black, 45 percent were White, and the remaining 3 percent were Native American. The range of SES levels was large, and 65 percent of the children were eligible for the free lunch program.

The results showed that children tended to fall into one of four clusters:

Low achievement, low SES; High achievement, high SES; Low achievement, high SES; and Moderately high achievement, low SES.

Generally, higher self-concept scores were associated with high SES. The high achievement, high SES group had high self-concept scores and appeared to be least vulnerable to negative self-perceptions. The low achievement, low SES group scored lowest on many inventory subscales and seemed the most vulnerable to negative self-perceptions. Another group that appeared vulnerable to negative self-perceptions was the low achievement, high SES group. It was surmised that low achievers experience pressure from high SES parents and peer groups, thus leading to low self-concept.

Implications for camp

For many, a primary goal of children and youth attending a camp is to increase self esteem and self-concept. Parents want to send their children to camp where they will experience success; many past camp staff remember with great joy that one child who came to camp with negative self perceptions and left camp full of confidence and a new, positive self concept. This research helps camp professionals target attention to those children who might have a high propensity for negative self concepts, and begin work toward increasing positive perceptions immediately.

As reported, those who tend to be most vulnerable to poor self-esteem were those identified as low achievers and from low SES backgrounds; in addition, children from high SES backgrounds, but who were low achievers were also reported as susceptible to low self concepts. To help identify these youth for early program intervention, camp directors and program staff might choose to ask for additional information (related to achievement levels) from camper applicants to help identify those who might need extra assistance in positive self concept development. Or, in the cabin those first nights, counselors might talk with children about their successes and achievements in school to help identify the low achievers. As low achievers are identified through camp programming, they could be given assistance.

It is important to avoid labeling children or youth and boxing them in; as all camp professionals realize, labeling children can be as harmful as ignoring them. All children are individuals and deal with stress, family issues, SES, and other elements of personal life in a unique fashion. The type of research summarized above may help to raise the awareness of camp staff and should serve as an impetus to improve services to all children, as identified for each of them as individuals. Self-concepts should be raised and strengthened for all people.

Peck, H. & Matthews, J. (1994). Achievement, socioeconomic status and self-concepts of fourth-grade students. Child Study Journal, 24(4), 281-296.

Deb Jordan, Re.D., is an associate professor of leisure services at the University of Northern Iowa. Send your letters and one-page summaries of research related to camp to: Research Notes, c/o Dr. Deb Jordan, Leisure Services Division, 203 East Gym, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0161. Note: Only research completed within the past two years will be considered for review.
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Author:Jordan, Debra J.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 1995
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