Today's economically and socially at-risk teens, especially boys, are vulnerable to criminal elements but a new take on laser tag is mitigating this risk.
Recent programs around the country are showing that juvenile crime rates have been reduced in districts where laser tag youth development programs have improved leadership, teamwork, and communication skills of participants.
Charleville police, for example, reported that juvenile arrest dropped significantly when the town ran a laser tag program for youth called "Skirmishing the Youth".
“The lack of appropriate facilities and activities for the youth of Charleville resulted in boredom and despondency which ultimately led to anti-social behavior and juvenile offending,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Tony Wright said.
“This activity provides a stimulating, enjoyable and healthy activity and in the process helps the police break down barriers. The game requires teamwork, communication, and physical fitness and the development of these core skills is an additional major benefit,” he said.
Word spread about the Skirmishing the Youth Project and events were also conducted by invitation in Longreach (population 2,975) and Blackall (population 1,160).
Another example is Dalby's "Ignition" program. Ignition Dalby is an initiative of the Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC). The program runs laser skirmish games, boxing training and sporting sponsorships for disadvantaged youth in the Dalby District.
The laser tag program focuses on the youth and teens between 11 to 16 age group.
These youth programs are giving at-risk kids a chance to play laser tag that keeps them healthier, in school, and out of trouble.
The PCYC coordinators found that the youth programs worked best if they were skills-based, team-focused, and linked with relevant communications such as anti-bullying messages.
“The attraction of Laser Skirmish allows the drawing of a large group of youths to enable effective delivery of a specified message. This activity was specifically designed to incorporate behavioral management strategies to enable 'at-risk youths' to be put on behavioral management contracts that provide Laser Skirmish as a substantial reward,” said Sgt Ryan, program coordinator.
“The benefits of this aspect of the program are profound. The gaming system has been designed to encourage teamwork among the participants. In this game - there is no single player that wins - it is the team that ultimately achieves success or failure. The gaming system has been formulated in such a way that it forces the participants to co-operate together to achieve the goals of the mission. All of the missions require communication, organization, and planning. The funny thing is that when participants play - they don't realize how much of these important aspects they use,” said Sgt Ryan.
“The other clear identified benefits are health-related. At a time when parents can never seem to encourage children from the computer or TV - you will find children queuing, begging and pleading to be engaged in this activity. The most amazing aspect is that children don't realize they are exercising. After the first couple of minutes - you will even see adults diving for cover,” he said.
“It is not uncommon to find parents who join in - telling staff how they never realized how much exercise was involved. In most cases, it is not uncommon to find dads reliving playing army men with their son or daughter - barking out orders and pointing to and fro. Moms normally get a big a laugh out of it,” he said.
“An important aspect of what we have achieved is the equipment used. After conducting a lot of research in this area we identified Battlefield Sports as a suitable provider for this unique equipment. After deploying it in weather extremes through the South West of Queensland, we were and still are impressed with the robustness and ease of use of the taggers. When we purchased the SATR equipment we have since found the continual development and upgrades to the product, have grown with us while we have delivered the program,” he said.
For further details on the PCYC case study, click here