Skip to main content

Cottonwood Heights Journal

Local Program Succeeds In Fighting Teen Obesity And Screen Addictions

Apr 03, 2015 10:18AM ● By City Journals Staff
 A recent study showed that children gain weight 2-3 times faster during summer months with Hispanic and African American children being at highest risk. Play Unplugged is a Utah-based company partnering with local chambers of commerce and is finding tremendous success in helping reduce the sedentary nature of a child’s summer months, while simultaneously helping local businesses experience a surge in foot traffic during that same timeframe. The program is free to join and offers kids tremendous opportunities of discovery and health.

It’s no secret that obesity in children and especially with teenagers is at historic record levels. Award-winning NBC affiliate KSL News recently explained that the risk of gaining weight during the summer months is simply because it’s a time for kids that lacks structure and can be unhealthy for children as a result.  

Concerned with rising levels of childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease among teens, two fathers joined forces three years ago to help their own community solve this issue. They soon discovered they were not alone since many single moms, parents, healthcare professionals and others were also very concerned with the issue of childhood obesity and the factors leading to this potentially deadly trend. After two short years of implementation of their idea named ‘Play Unplugged’, parents, schools and city leaders are partnering with local chambers of commerce who not only want to help these kids, but want to grow local business revenue as well. The results are impressive and have offered kids summer opportunities to get exercise.

“We quickly learned that the Play Unplugged program was very well received by parents in our community here in Heber City, Utah and interest has spread even more than we anticipated since our first year,” said Play Unplugged Co-Founder/President Erik Rowland. “It has been fully embraced by the kids, and the local businesses who joined the Play Unplugged concept are telling us they have seen a significant rise in foot traffic by families into their stores in order to collect their badge.”

Play Unplugged is a successful program which provides kids with fun and interesting physical activities in their local communities while school is out of session. To create structure and motivation during the slow summer months, children can earn plastic dog tags called ‘Brag Badges’ for doing official Play Unplugged activities in their cities. These activities and badges are sponsored by local businesses, civic groups and even law enforcement. This year the Play Unplugged program will be operating in all Draper Elementary schools, as well as Murray, Draper, Brigham City, Cache Valley, Provo, Spanish Fork, Cedar City, and the Granite School District.

“Play Unplugged also addresses the issues of digital addiction, because what Play Unplugged offers kids is the real self-motivation needed for them to put their screens down, go outside and discover the many forms of recreation which have sadly fallen by the wayside,” said Play Unplugged Co-Founder and CEO Corbin Gordon. “When Play Unplugged sponsors realize the program’s great marketing potential to the public, and the good they do in their local communities for these kids, it’s a win-win scenario.”

Play Unplugged representatives first meet with local leaders and school representatives to determine the best ways to invite local businesses and organizations to sponsor the badges. Participation is entirely free for kids and their parents, and they can collect badges at various local businesses where they either perform the activity, or provide the necessary proof. 

Activities such as bike riding, bowling and night games (kick-the-can, sardines and hide-n-go-seek), or even walking/running a mile are represented by the following Brag Badges entitled; ‘Bike Rider, ‘King Pin’, ‘Night Gamer’ and ‘Mile Master’. These are just a few of the 101 unplugged activities available for kids and families to perform in their local areas during the summer.  There are also non-athletic Brag Badges inspiring learning and exploration.

Over the course of one summer, participating organizations have found a greater connection with the community and increased foot traffic through their doors. The Play Unplugged program, entry into local summer drawings, Brag Badge Lanyard and other Play Unplugged activities (as well as access to articles and proven tips on how your family can unplug itself) are completely free for families and kids who want to participate this summer. 

If you are a chamber of commerce, school, PTA or group of concerned parents who wish to look more into the Play Unplugged program; visit