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Plugged In

Pittsburgh school lets kids play video games at recess

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Kids playing Wii at recess (Credit: WPIX)

The nation's schools have no choice but to adapt to and embrace technology as they prepare children for the modern world. But sometimes, that might go a little too far.

Pittsburgh's Whitehall Elementary School has found itself in some hot water with parents for its decision to incorporate the Nintendo Wii into its recess program.

Students at the school, which focuses on grades two through five, rotate recess days during the week. Most days kids play outside, but once or twice a week, they stay inside, playing physical games like Just Dance on the Wii, reports Pittsburgh's WPXI.

It's not just a rainy day or winter option, either. The school has been allowing kids to stay inside and play even when the weather was cooperative.

Whitehall, which picked up the Wiis with grant money it received earlier this year, defended the practice in a note sent to parents.

"We think students can benefit from the technology of physical gaming and may find more opportunities for social inclusion, greater access to physical activity, less individual conflicts on the playground and a more enjoyable recess for our students, overall," wrote principal Jennifer Marsteller. "And since this new program occupies just 16 percent of our recess schedule, there is adequate time for a student to enjoy traditional indoor and outdoor games and activities."

The school district's superintendent says a lack of space, a large student body, injuries, and bullying contributed to the change in recess structure. He also feels the Wii might be healthier for some kids, in fact, since they sometimes just stand around while outside.

"It fits. It works. There's enough activity. The frequency in which they (students) are inside is basically one day out of a six-day rotation," said Dr. Randal A. Lutz.. "It's not like they're always inside."

"We're not gonna make everybody happy, no matter what we do," he continued. "But for the benefit of all students ... it is better. For the benefit of all, it's a better structure."

Still, some parents aren't happy with the decision.

"[My kids] want to be outside playing with the groups of friends they choose," says Lisa Di Cesare. "I think you should let kids go on the playground and let them play what they want with who they want…I think [the school's] intentions are good, but I think it was a little misguided."

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