Young ‘hostages to handheld devices’


Boy texting
The report highlights the challenge to sport from technology

Future generations of young people risk becoming “hostages to handheld devices” and disengaged from physical activity, a sports charity says.

The Youth Sports Trust report suggests that nearly a quarter of children see playing computer games with friends as a form of physical activity.

The trust called for technology to be integrated with PE in schools.

The government said it had given schools £300m to improve school sport, and PE was a priority.

The Leicestershire-based trust describes itself as an independent charity devoted to changing young people’s lives through sport.

It commissioned a survey of children’s attitudes to sport, as part of its report on the future of sport in schools.

‘March of technology’

This poll of 1,000 five- to 16-year olds suggested 75% of young people enjoy PE at school, and two-thirds feel better after taking part in sport.

But the survey revealed the scale of the challenge from digital technology.

Some 23% of children said they viewed playing a computer game with a friend as a form of exercise.

And a third said they spoke to their friends more on social media than in person.

The report – The class of 2035: promoting a brighter and more active future for the youth of tomorrow – said “there is no resisting” the march of technology.

“Policymakers can feel nostalgic for a time before the challenges new connected technologies have brought in engaging young people, or they can harness these technologies to their advantage,” the report said.

Most young people told the survey they enjoyed PE.

“It will also become increasingly imperative for every child to have access to new technology in school and greater efforts made to ensure that there is little division among the tech capabilities of young people.

“Furthermore, in order to get children active from a young age, a more holistic approach to PE is needed, one which integrates technology and the delivery of a seamless, intuitive and digitally enhanced form of physical activity.”

‘Opportunities and challenges’

Children’s minister Edward Timpson said: “It is pleasing that the Youth Sport Trust’s research shows that millions of young people are enjoying PE lessons.

“We want to encourage all young people to get into the healthy habit of playing and enjoying sport – both inside and outside school – which is why PE remains a government priority.”

Ali Oliver, chief executive of the Youth Sports Trust, said: “The digital revolution presents opportunities and challenges with young people potential hostages to their handheld devices.

“This report clearly signals that action is needed now to modernise the approach to PE and school sport and in doing so, guarantee the best possible future for generations to come.”