A summer camp designed to get young people to play video games is perpetuating New Brunswick’s problem of childhood obesity, according to one of the province’s most well-known promoters of healthy lifestyles among children.
The True Gaming Summer camp in Fredericton is operated on the premise that young people can learn a lot by the activities involved in playing video games.
Andrew Reimer, the camp’s founder, said the idea that playing video games can be good for young people is the reason why gaming is part of the daily activities in his private summer camp.
“It develops problem solving and just-in-time thinking. They have to make decisions at just that time, and so it’s a quick responsiveness in that way,” Reimer said.
The idea of putting young people in front of television screens even more is not sitting well with Gabriela Tymowski.
Tymowski, a kinesiology professor at the University of New Brunswick, who ran the province’s first child obesity clinic, said the video game camp is not encouraging healthy choices.
“It’s a bit of an oxymoron to talk about healthy video games. Why don’t we talk about healthy activity? Physical activity?” she said.
“Kids get off school, they leave the interior environment of the school, the bus, they into the house, open the fridge and then move to the screens,” she said.
A recent study by Active Healthy Kids Canada found that kids spend 6 hours in front of a screen on weekdays and more than seven hours on weekends.
The report also said 59 per cent of kids are sedentary between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. and only get 14 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity in that period.
“Children are interested in video games, they’re attracted to them, there’s a lot of stimulation there,” Tymowski said.
“And so parents are encouraged or want to put their children into an activity that the children will enjoy. But unfortunately, while their fingers may be dexterous and moving the rest of their body isn’t.”
The idea of trying to stifle the popularity of video games is a lost cause, Reimer said.
Gaming is part of the culture of young people so the youth camp organizer said he’s designing a program that allows them to take part in activities that they enjoy.
“I’m not sure exactly how a kid would be able to socially interact nowadays without having any video gaming background. I feel like they’d have a lot harder a time at like public school, because that is the common factor that kids have nowadays to make friends,” Reimer said.
The popularity of video games is also spreading to other members of the family.
Carl Callewaeart, an instructor at the Gaming and Animation Institute of Fredericton, said game developers say they recognize the issue and are shifting their approach when it comes to designing new games.
“Game developers know that in the past it was about targeting young kids. But now the parents play too, so now there are family packages,” he said.
“And when you play together there’s that healthy aspect- because you have quality time together.”