Thursday 22 March 2018

Irish Olympian Thomas Barr: 'Smart phones should be banned in schools because they're making children lazy'

Thomas Barr. Photo: Sportsfile
Thomas Barr. Photo: Sportsfile

Ian Begley, Geraldine Gittens and Mark Morris

Irish Olympian Thomas Barr said children are becoming lazier these days thanks to the impact of social media.

The Waterford hurdler argued there has been a culture change in recent years where young people are spending more time on their phones, rather than being physically active.

"Social media makes it so easy to sit on a couch and waste and hour or two snapchatting or talking to your friends on Facebook," he said.

"I'm guilty of that too, so I can understand how easy it is to become lazy."

"There has been a culture change obviously and we need to find a way to make kids more active and actually enjoy being physically fit."

Barr was speaking at Croke Park at the launch of Irish Life Health's School Fitness Challenge results.

Rugby international Sophie Spence and hurdler Thomas Barr at the School Fitness Challenge. Photo: Jason Clarke
Rugby international Sophie Spence and hurdler Thomas Barr at the School Fitness Challenge. Photo: Jason Clarke

Students throughout Ireland took part in the challenge, which saw a 16pc fitness improvement in girls, in comparison to just 6pc in boys. Pupils had their fitness levels measured at the start of the challenge then underwent a six-week training programme before having their cardiovascular fitness levels measured again.

France is to impose a total ban on pupils using mobile phones in primary and secondary schools this September. Barr agrees that this could be a solution in Ireland as well, which would help Irish children to be more active during their school days.

“I think it’s a really good idea. I don’t know how practical it is to implement. But the primary reason you would have a phone is to contact your parents or for safety. But you don’t have all the extra things with Instagram and Facebook, I think that would definitely be a good idea.”

“I remember when I was going to school, I had a phone but it could barely text and call, and that was it. We didn’t have that problem in school.”

Professor Niall Moyna, head of the School of Health and Human Performance at DCU, told the Irish Independent that modern technology is "engineering" physical activity out of our lives.

"We have to find ways to get kids physically active again and maybe their smartphones will be part of it," he said.

"If a person has absolutely no interest in sport then they could easily put on headphones and go out for a walk for 30 minutes."

He called for mandatory monitoring of cardio-respiratory fitness in schools to lower the risk of chronic disease amongst children.

Out of 30,000 students who took part in the challenge, Gort Community School, Co Galway, was named Ireland's fittest school and also the country's most improved school.

Irish Independent

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