Mary Beckingham said on a recent two-mile walk many of her group were shattered after walking just one mile.

Not only that, 20 of the 24 girls did not know how to cross the road safely.

"They just started walking across without looking," said Mary, of Meadow Drive.

"They said it was because they never walk anywhere - their parents drive them all the time."

But Mary, who has worked with children almost 20 years, said she has been encouraged to see the enduring popularity of Guiding and Scouting.

"If children want to learn about being self-sufficient, self-respecting and helping others, they will want to get involved," she said.

"I think it makes them a better person, instead of sitting in front of the box all the time." Youth worker Bernie Moore, based at Knutsford's Attic Youth Club in the leisure centre, said he had no evidence that computers and the Internet were encouraging teenagers to become couch potatoes.

But he added: "I think people of any age who spend a lot of time playing these machines, particularly at home, could lose their social skills - the art of conversation and mixing with other people - and I think that's dangerous."

But activities at Egerton Youth Club - which runs a strong sports programme - are still booming, said leader Eric Ball.

"There is a high instance of children being driven around but I think that's due in the main to the oddballs around," he said.

"But it doesn't seem to get in the way of children being interested in whatever activities are going. All out sports are popular whereas the arcade games are largely ignored - though many children have them at home now."

Converted for the new archive on 13 March 2001. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.