Bat and ball replaced by Web and games?

"With everything in the news about the obesity of our young today," writes a CNET reader, "the answer is to create 'active video games?" It's a new world.

After reading through the comments on yesterday's column discussing why Sony and Microsoft should view Nintendo as a competitor, I came across an interesting post by one reader who told us to "get rid" of our gaming consoles and go outside.

The person contends that children are playing too many video games and watch too much TV when they should be playing outside. The reader makes an interesting point, but I think that it fails to address one issue facing this generation's parents: in order to prepare children for their adult lives, they need to ensure that their children are well-versed in the technological realities of our world.

"Get rid of your gaming consoles, and send your kids outside to play "actual reality" games," Choclatpup wrote. "When, exactly, did video games replace balls and bats, or bicycles? With everything in the news about the obesity of our young today, the answer is to create 'active video games' such as the Wii Fit? Asinine!"

It got me thinking: are our children replacing the bat and ball with the Web and gaming?

It's possible.

Just last week, my cousin's children came to visit and I asked them if they wanted to throw a football around. The kids, a 7-year old and a 5-year old, both gave the same response: "let's play video games instead." Once they had enough with video games, they wanted to show me a "cool" Web site they came across at school.

It may sound strange for a technology journalist to say this, but I was a little disheartened that the children wouldn't go outside and engage in some physical activity. Sure, it was cold, and it's possible that they just don't like football, but it makes me wonder if today's children are too engrossed with the Web and video games to enjoy anything else.

I'll be the first to say that using the Web and playing video games is good for children. It affords them opportunities previous generations never had growing up and contributes positively to their development. But at times, I don't think there's anything wrong with telling them it's time to put the controller down, pick up a baseball bat, and start playing Home Run Derby with the other neighborhood kids.

A recent study from the BBC found that children who play outside, away from their TVs and computers, laugh more than those who stay connected all day. An older study found that since the 1970s, children have lost 12 hours a week in outside playtime.

Parents who were polled claimed that the reason they don't allow their children outside as much anymore is because of their children's "dependence on TV, computer games, and the lack of safe areas to play outside."

Assuming that study is representative of the entire population across the United States, it seems that children really have given up the bat and ball for the Web and gaming. But now a new question arises: does it matter?

I don't think so. I think it's incumbent upon parents today to ensure that their children are adequately equipped to face the new world we find ourselves in. During the 1970s, children weren't expected to know how to design a Web site at work, and playing video games was hardly a concern. But today, gaming, the Internet, and computers themselves have become such an integral part of our culture that not being well-versed in the storyline behind Halo or understanding the difference between Facebook and MySpace has become a liability for kids at school.

But that doesn't mean that physical activity has been thrown out the window. There are still a slew of children playing baseball in Little Leagues across the country, and soccer is still an extremely popular youth sport.

And maybe it's for that reason that we shouldn't simply look at children as "gamers" or "ballplayers," but rather as children that may have more opportunities for growth than previous generations did. And maybe we should come to realize that gaming and baseball, or Facebook and soccer, complement each other in the lives of today's children.

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