BRENTWOOD, Calif. — Summer camp has many benefits for kids including: socialization, eliminating screen time, and exercise, according to the Children’s Bureau.

This is important, especially after the year children had at home during the pandemic.

According to a new study by the Children’s Hospital of Chicago, 67% of parents wish they would have been more vigilant about their child’s mental health from the beginning. Parents cited social isolation as the unhealthiest aspect of the pandemic, followed by remote learning and too much screen time.

Ryan Hakim, 11, attended Coach Steve’s Summer of Fun camp and was reunited with his friends he had not seen in over two years. Hakim said he was not as active and lost a lot of his sports skills, but summer camp is helping.

“I’m getting my talent back,” he said.

During the last year at home, Hakim spent most of his time learning on a computer and playing video games, which studies show lead to shorter sleep duration, later bedtime and poorer sleep quality.

“My eyes hurt a lot, so my mom went to buy these special glasses. It’s also tempting to play video games, since you are in front of your computer and you can pretty much do what you want,” said Hakim.

As someone who was tempted to play video games, it became boring after a while. Running on the field taking part in a game the campers came up with called bench ball is something he needed.

“Back in COVID, my parents wanted me to run and do laps. It was so boring and I hated it. But this is more fun. You are running across a field all the time and winning, which I like because I’m competitive. It’s a fun way to exercise,” said Hakim.

According to the study by the Children’s Hospital of Chicago, 71% of parents believe the pandemic has taken a toll on their child’s mental health. Dr. David Swanson, licensed clinical psychologist, said he’s seen more cases of anxiety and depression amongst youth and feels this is due to lack of physical exercise and social interaction. 

“As a psychologist, if I have a kid who is struggling with anxiety or depression. I want him playing with his friends. I want him out of the house. I want him getting out and having a good time. They are finally able to get out of the house and now can reintegrate with their friends. The social interaction will be great for their anxiety and depression. In addition to that, they are able to exercise, it helps regulate brain chemicals and helps them sleep at night,” said Dr. Swanson.

He continues to share that he thinks camp is a great way to integrate back into social groups again and stay active, which hopefully will better the mental health of kids.

If you couldn’t tell just by this one day at camp, Hakim is having an amazing time. He may even say goodbye to screen time.

“Video games are fun and all but this is some good stuff,” said Hakim.