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Anxiety rocketing among ‘smartphone generation’

THE new problems that come with young people living out their lives through their phones are a bigger danger to them than alcohol, drugs or teenage sex, according to sport psychologist and teacher Keith Begley.

He will deliver a talk at the community hall in Newmarket-on-Fergus on the evening of Saturday, February 16 entitled Let’s Play Outside-The positive role of sport for the wellbeing of the smartphone generation.

In very recent years the internet has become constantly accessible meaning young people are growing up very differently to their parents, he says. “It’s a huge problem in that they don’t socialise the way they used to, they’re not involved in the same level of what I call sweat inducing activity as they once were. They don’t need to leave their bedroom anymore to socialise, they socialise online, they socialise through their apps, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Houseparty and so on. It means they don’t have to cycle to their friends, or go over to the neighbour’s house for a game of soccer to socialise. They’re less physically active as a result,” he explained.

Far more young people are now suffering from mental health issues, while sleep deprivation is much more common, leading to further problems.

Indeed the issues are becoming so widespread, that the health system is nearly buckling, Keith says. “It’s probably a bigger problem than drink, drugs or sex, it’s huge. The volume of kids presenting with anxiety issues, you’re probably hitting 23-24% of teenagers between 13 and 16. You hear a lot of the time about mental health support and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Support being swamped, they can’t cater for the volume. They can’t cater for the volume because the volume has grown exponentially in the last five years,” he added.

Often times parents don’t realise a problem is developing until it has become quite serious, he feels, while research hasn’t yet caught up with a very new set of issues. “I think they don’t recognise how big an issue it is and they don’t understand until they have to bring them somewhere for mental health support. It’s probably not really known in the mainstream. It’s maybe being tackled a small bit, but if you talk to doctors and psychologists they will tell you its huge. Its such a new concept that the research is still behind the problem.”

Saturday evening’s talk is organised by Newmarket GAA club and its Bord na nÓg secretary Paula Carr said that it is open to anyone dealing with young people. “It’s basically to try and encourage people to encourage the kids to play any sport, not just hurling,to try and get them away from the X Boxes and the phones.”

Owen Ryan

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