British Columbia

UBC video-game camp disturbs health experts

Health professionals are shaking their heads over a decision by the University of British Columbia to offer a summer camp that lets children play video games for several hours a day.

Health professionals are shaking their heads over a decision by the University of British Columbia to offer a summer camp that lets children play video games for several hours a day.

According to a brochure being handed out at Vancouver elementary schools, the camp will let kids play Nintendo, Wii, Playstation and other computer games for three hours a day for about $140 a week.

"If sports aren’t your thing but you still want to get out this summer and try new things and meet new people, this is your chance," says the UBC Sports Camps website. "Come test your gaming skills in our new arcade."

Manager Kyle Cupido says the university offered the camp last year, and it was a good social opportunity for some kids who didn't fit into other programs.

"Some kids aren't athletic, aren't artistic," Cupido said. "This gives them a chance to meet new friends."

Children at the camp can also play ping-pong and foosball, and time is allotted each day to playing outside. The camp also includes a field trip to a local video game company to meet designers and learn about job opportunities.

But over in UBC's department of medicine, Prof. Heather Mckay says she is troubled by the program in light of rising obesity levels among children.

"It seems to be going in exactly the wrong direction we want children to be going in the summer months, where they should be engaged in unstructured play, and should be outside and be doing what children of every age should be doing," said McKay, whose research focuses on children and exercise.

Michelle Brownrigg, the CEO of Active Healthy Kids Canada, has similar concerns.

"We already have a society that is spending an excessive amount of time in front of screens … both adults and kids," she said.

Brownrigg said a recent report by her group showed that on average, young people spend six hours a day in front of screens while only 12 per cent of Canadian kids get enough exercise.