Nintendo Wii Recreation Program

The Ocean County Department of Juvenile Services has instituted a new recreation program at the Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center, in Toms River, New Jersey. The Social Services Department within the Detention Center now offers a recreation program utilizing the Nintendo Wii Gaming Console. Residents who display appropriate behavior are invited to participate in the weekly program designed to emphasize team sportsmanship, the development of pro-social skills, and the additional benefit of recreational exercise.

Created by 2 staff social workers in the Social Service Department, Jon Carman, BA, and Jim Patten MSW/LCSW, this hands-on program has proved to be a powerful tool in behavior modification. Staff custody officers choose eligible residents each week based on their behavior, and residents know that the program has a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behavior.

The group setting and gaming theme provide residents with a unique forum for a change of pace, in addition to aiding residents in reducing feelings of stress and anxiety associated with being detained. The Wii program also provides our residents with a sense of normalcy and feelings that may remind them of home. Mr. Carman and Mr. Patten continually steer the group dynamic in a positive direction. As a result, residents learn and reinforce the proper way to win and lose, thus reinforcing principles of good sportsmanship.

Since this successful activity's inception, staff members have seen measurable, positive outcomes in resident behavior, along with a new-found willingness to adhere to the rules and regulations of the Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center. The program has also given our residents a renewed sense of hope and something to look forward to at the end of a long week of school here in Detention.

The vast majority of our residents have never had the opportunity to engage in bowling or tennis before. And this program exposes them to these new and constructive energy outlets in a virtual setting. The positive fitness results from virtual gaming are also documented: "Investigating the potential fitness benefits of Wii Sports, including baseball, bowling, golf and tennis games, the ACE study revealed that playing Wii Sports increases heart rate, maximum oxygen intake and perceived exertion, which ultimately translates into calories burned."

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