"Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground," said Ellen Sandseter.

SALT LAKE CITY — Playing on the playground is not as thrilling or dangerous as it used to be and researchers believe this may be a bad thing.

The New York Times reported on a study based in Norway this week that says getting rid of too tall of slides, monkey bars and other equipment deemed too risky to play on may actually stunt children's emotional growth.

"Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground," Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway, told the Times, adding that playgrounds are becoming "more and more boring."

ABC News quoted the authors of the study as saying: "An exaggerated safety focus of children's play is problematic because while on the one hand children should avoid injuries, on the other hand they might need challenges and varied stimulation to develop normally, both physically and mentally."

Many site the fear of falls and breaking bones as reasons why playgrounds have gotten rid of equipment like swings that swing "too high," merry-go-rounds that can pinch and the traditional Tarzan rope that can choke. But permanent physical or emotional damage is unlikely, the Times reported, adding that researchers have found that children who are hurt from a fall before the age of 9 are actually less likely to be afraid of heights as teenagers.

"Paradoxically, we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology," the study concludes.

One writer for Gizmodo, a technology weblog, wrote this week in response to the Times' story, saying these safety-first playgrounds are signs of a larger epidemic — a society that is afraid of taking risks.

"We live in a world made over by lawyers and insurance contracts. And it's killing us," wrote Matt Honan. "Taking risks is what makes society great. We need the risk takers. The entrepreneurs, the inventors, the explorers, the astronauts, the revolutionaries, for they are the ones who drive the world forward. And when we start our children off by teaching them that the worlds is a big scary place that will hurt them—that they can't climb too high and that they always need a soft landing surface below—we're weeding those adventurous types out at a very young age. We're making them afraid of the world."

Yet some seem to disagree with this mentality, saying there is no need to risk injury or even death by being negligent.

Every year about 200,000 children visit the emergency room due to injuries on the playground, reported the Law Firm Newswire on Thursday, saying that children ages 5 to 9 are at most risk.

"At school and public playgrounds, most of the injuries happen on climbing equipment," LFN reported. "At home, the leading peril is the swing or swing set. For children that died from playground injuries, it is strangulation and falls that caused death. For kids that do survive a playground incident, injuries can be severe. Internal injuries, concussions, dislocations and fractures occurred the most."

KGO Newstalk went a bit further in exploring the study on whether playgrounds can be too safe and said the authors of the study found that "playground injuries may have more to do with the risk-taking behavior of the child than with the equipment itself."

"One of the best ways to strike the balance between safety and fun is to improve the grounds of playgrounds," Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital told KGO Newstalk. "Making sure that surfacing under playthings is maintained and cushions the fall is a way to reduce injury severity without lessening how fun or challenging the equipment is. That way, the daredevils will at least have a softer landing pad."

EMAIL: slenz@desnews.com