Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 April 2014

Children's addiction to screens a problem for future

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Technology has brought about a sedentary lifestyle for children
Technology has brought about a sedentary lifestyle for children

The magnetism of Mickey Harte filled the room as people queued to speak to him after he collected a Hall of Fame Award at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

Ulster rugby coach Mark Anscombe ambled over and expressed his admiration for Harte as a coach and as a manager. Then he shared a story that few might be aware of.

As a child, Anscombe went to a Catholic school. The teachers were Christian Brothers and, as you've probably guessed, Gaelic football would become a large part of Anscombe's curriculum.

He enjoyed it, but then as he told us, he enjoyed everything as a child. He loved heading away to his mother's people's farm where he could roam around freely. And he was able to entertain himself with a ball of any shape for hours on end.

Looking around the room on Monday night, there is no doubt that sport has as great an appeal as ever, but is it merely the highest level?

As pointed out by GAA Director-General Paraic Duffy, an ESPN Sports Poll conducted in August 2012 found that over 50% of fans would rather enjoy a sporting occasion on TV than attend it.

Few children have the inclination to go roaming on a farm, or kick a ball for hours like a young Anscombe, or a young Mickey Harte who played handball against a shed wall.

Technology has brought about a sedentary lifestyle for children, who may believe they have an abundance of 'friends' through social media, but social contact has never been more rare.

It's not a problem now, but in 20 years' time, watch out for it.