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The UK’s children’s minister has slapped MySpace and other social networking sites for their role in the fattening up of the nation's youth.

Beverly Hughes, at the launch of a report by think tank Demos on how children are being squeezed out of public space in the real world, said children were being pulled into virtual worlds instead.

Hughes said parents were also responsible by being overprotective of their children, as was inadequate provision of play areas and increasing traffic.

But once kids were hooked into the mesmerising world of MySpace, Second Life, and Super Mario, she suggested, they would never leave the house, even when it wasn't raining.

The report itself details how "the benefits of a good public realm for children and young people are part of the benefits it gives the rest of society". Yet the report details the pressures on public space, both the lack of formal playgrounds and the like, and the way traffic forces children off other public space.

Apparently, "in one national study 45 per cent of 500 children interviewed said they were not allowed to play with water, 36 per cent were not allowed to climb trees, 27 per cent were not allowed to play on climbing equipment, and 23 per cent were not allowed to ride bikes or use skateboards".

The results are not pretty: "Twenty per cent of four-year-olds are overweight, while 8.5 per cent of six-year-olds and 15 per cent of 15-year olds are obese."

Scary stuff, and the likes of Nintendo, MySpace, and World of Warcraft should be hanging their heads in shame for turning the youth into battalions of buckets of lard, as Hughes points out.

Well, not quite. A search of the report doesn't actually throw up any mentions of computers, TV, consoles, and the like. Rather, it blames local planners, developers, over protective parents, government policies that have yet to deliver, and casual demonisation of children by the adults.

Still, sorting out all of that lot would take an awful lot of time and effort. Much easier to just follow the lead of those overprotective/lazy parents and point at the TV and computer. ®

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