Life through a lens – Our sedentary youth

It is a scenario we are probably all familiar with, 15 minutes before an after-School club starts the heavens open.

*Cue frantic head-scratching*

The result of the aforementioned led to me setting up some short tennis courts in the School hall (something I used to LOVE as a youngster).

Whilst I was demonstrating the game – one of the children shouted out excitedly…

“He’s copied this game off Nintendo Wii!” 

It was this exact comment that was the catalyst for some deep thinking.

The prevalence of technology in modern society is at a level where children are constantly exposed to it, the children we currently teach have never lived in a world where Facebook, Xbox, Twitter, Instagram and Smart phones don’t exist. The majority of our population has witnessed technologies ascendency, theoretically allowing us to make an informed decision on the extent we rely on it. Our children will not have the same opportunity.

A friend of mine has a little boy who hadn’t yet spoken his first word, but knew how to swipe through photo’s on a smart phone! I’m told this is quite normal, the first time I saw it I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

I’m aware using the term ‘technology’ is incredibly broad and some technology works alongside physical activity perfectly well. In this blog I’m referring to what I’ll call ‘sedentary technology’ – I.e Forms of technology that do not involve physical movement (I mentioned a few of the offending articles above)

Almost every thread of the fabric of society is intertwined with technology, so much so that when hiking with my family recently I noticed it was possible to ‘tag’ your whereabouts so you can update your social media website whilst walking. Do people actually spend time looking at their phone when they’re surrounded by beautiful countryside?

Considering the former – I think it is plausible to predict technologies cultural significance is irreversible, which leads to me to ask the following question:

Should P.E as a subject embrace technology wholeheartedly?


Is the role of P.E as a subject to teach our children to love physical activity away from technology?

As is often the case, I suspect the ideal scenario lies at a point in between the two. However I still find it worthwhile to pose the question. Which side do you lean towards?

Personally I lean towards attempting to use P.E as a vehicle to teach children the merits of disconnecting with technology (as a Port Vale supporter I have a natural tendency to favour the underdog).

In the interest of a fair fight I’ll share with some an example of P.E ‘working with technology’

I’m aware of a current trend amongst my secondary-based peers of making an activity ‘gamified’. This process involves adapting lessons to take the format of a popular computer game (a Dodgeball lesson infused with Call of Duty for example). The first time I saw this strategy I was blown away, it’s incredibly innovative and I’m sure the kids are very engaged throughout these lessons. But it does worry me that ‘gamifying’ was what was needed as a ‘hook’ to convince certain children to be physically active. I’m picturing what these children do when they get home that day, still buzzing from their P.E lesson – I’m guessing they turn on Call of Duty?

Before I continue I’d like to make very clear that I’m not against making activities ‘gamified’, I think if you have a large proportion of disengaged pupils who love their Xbox, it is a brilliant idea to persuade them to engage in physical activity.

But it is my personal view that children should be able to differentiate between what could be referred to as the ‘technological world’, where experiences are accessed through a screen, and the real world. Perhaps I am naïve to classify the real world as one without technology.

I suppose what I’m classifying as the real world is one that you are physically involved in. You are making direct eye contact to the person you are speaking to, you can feel your grip on the ball you’re playing with…..

A recent study concluded that if children from the age of 6 sit still for longer than 90 minutes continuously their arteries begin to harden, a fact I use to challenge general teaching habits in some Schools.

The British Heart Foundation’s 2015 Physical Activity statistics states that 10-11 year old Girls spend 3.5 hours completely sedentary on a week day, for 10-11 year old Boys this figure rises to 3.7 hours. That’s after a day at School where it seems Numeracy and Literacy’s strangle hold on all other core subjects tightens weekly!

The same publication (it’s a very grim read) states that only 49% of 10-11 year olds in England partake in two hours of vigorous physical activity per week. That means that over half don’t!

Perhaps this last stat is the most revealing. According to the British Heart Foundation 39% of 10-11 year olds spend ‘two hours or more’ on a computer or games console….. PER WEEKDAY!

It is the combination of these factors that have led me to believe that P.E as a subject has a new obligation. It is no longer enough for us to teach skills and enhance knowledge. I don’t think we can settle at just raising participation and activity levels.

I believe Physical Education has a duty to educate our young people to moderate their use of ‘sedentary technology’. My New Year’s resolution is to attempt to do just that. Over the coming months I’ll share the various methods I’ll use to attempt to do this!

If anybody has any idea’s they’d like to share please do so! I have a feeling I will need as much help as I can get….