Saturday 16 November 2019

Phone addiction and fake health advice 'biggest threats to teens'

Karl Henry
Karl Henry

Allison Bray

Mobile phone addiction and "fake health news" are the biggest health threats facing teenagers today, according to fitness guru Karl Henry.

The personal trainer and fitness expert said the digital revolution is leading to worrying levels of inactivity in teenagers and young adults who spend hours a day glued to their electronic devices.

But equally worrying is the often dangerous misinformation about so-called 'clean' eating that is disseminated online, he said at HealthFest 2017 at the RDS yesterday.

"In terms of health it's not a good thing... because all of a sudden it's the 'Instagram Expert' who puts up photographs with advice that has no foundation or qualification behind it," Mr Henry said.

Teenage girls in particular are most at risk of leading a sedentary lifestyle due to the vast amount of time spent online, he added.

"Put your phones away and enjoy what's around you," he said.

"You need to be getting your 60 minutes a day (of exercise), it needs to be spread throughout the day. It doesn't have to be in one block.

"Yet people are more sedentary and I think that families have to take stock of that and get fit as a family unit and do things together," he said.

He also warned young people not to be mislead by marketers or so-called social media 'experts' espousing 'gluten-free or dairy-free' diets when there is no medical or other reason for doing so.

He made the comments at the one-day event sponsored by the National Dairy Council and Safefood to encourage teenagers to eat healthy, well-balanced meals and be physically active.

But he was preaching to the converted as far as 16-year-old student Maria Luttrell, from Portlaoise, Co Laois is concerned.

The transition year student at Scoil Chríost Rí said she is too busy playing inter-county Gaelic football and basketball to waste time on social media.


"I try to limit it [my online time]. We have a lot of family time otherwise your head would get, like, mangled," she said.

"It's not good for your mental health as well because you're constantly comparing yourself to other people," she said.

"You're just sitting there and it's full attention on your phone and nothing else," she said.

She was among approximately 3,000 students from across Ireland who attended the free event.

Irish Independent

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