Mom's a Wii Bit Apprehensive

Children who spend too much time playing virtual sports on their new Nintendo Wii are getting a false sense of what it's like to compete in the world. That's the view of one mother who is watching her children "excel" at video sports.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Well, even as we listen to Renee play virtual tennis, commentator Kelly McBride may have been cringing - not because of Renee's tennis, but because she worries that her children are having too much fun with their new Wii.

KELLY MCBRIDE: I've always dreamed of having kids who are fit and active, who organize pickup games of baseball and come home sweaty and bruised. Now, thanks to the Nintendo Wii, my children are skilled in multiple sports: tennis, bowling, baseball.

They're athletes. At least they think they are.

I often find them panting and dripping with sweat. They even have sports injuries - kind of. My shoulder hurts, my 12-year-old daughter complained recently. What are you doing in gym class, I asked? No, not gym class. It's the Wii.

When I told them to get ready for bed the other night, my son whined. We just want to play one more set of tennis. You are not playing tennis, I said. Sure we are, he said. Look at my power serve. Does he really think he can play tennis?

In real tennis, beginners rarely hit the ball inbounds. They can't sustain a volley beyond a few swings. And scoring? Who can figure that out? In Wii tennis, the players make brilliant saves to keep the volley alive. An announcer keeps score while a crowd cheers. And there's that power serve.

My son mastered his by pushing the A and B buttons at the same time. Maybe Wii tennis will encourage my children to play real tennis. But what if when they pick up a real tennis racket, they're so delusional about their ability, they walk away in frustration?

The Wii is to sports what grade inflation is to academic achievement. It makes it so easy, everyone thinks they can play. On the bright side, think what that will do for the self-esteem of our nation's out-of-shape children. They'll always make the team. The stadium will always be packed. The crowd will always be on their side.

On a virtual playing field, we're all champions. I just wonder if our kids will ever find out what a level playing field is like.

INSKEEP: Commentator Kelly McBride is on the faculty of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

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