Young people at risk of becoming ‘hostages to handheld devices’ warns @YouthSportTrust

Report released by the Youth Sport Trust

Image by Jessica Fiess-Hill by Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Youth Sport Trust Chief Executive Ali Oliver has today warned that future generations of young people are at risk of living their lives devoted to technology, ‘hostages to handheld devices’ and disengaged from physical activity.

Oliver’s warning underlines the need for technology to be embraced within PE and school sport to ensure it remains relevant to today’s digital generation, keeps them engaged in physical activity, and supports them to develop physical literacy.

Her comments come as the Youth Sport Trust releases a new report, The Class of 2035: promoting a brighter and more active future for the youth of tomorrow, which presents four possible scenarios – both positive and negative – for the future.

The report, conducted for the Youth Sport Trust by the Future Foundation to mark the charity’s 20th anniversary and launched at the start of National School Sport Week, provides a unique insight into young people’s relationship with physical activity today and 20 years from now.

Image by Jessica Fiess-Hill by Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Image by Jessica Fiess-Hill by Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

It warns that PE and school sport are at a critical crossroads and the subject should remain a key priority to avoid a physically and socially disengaged future generation, over dependent on technology, which will result in low physical, social and emotional wellbeing.

The rise in technology was at the core of the findings, however, the report also highlights how the ‘digital revolution’ can be used to better PE and school sport, empowering young people to take responsibility for their own activity levels.

In its conclusions, the report calls for action to be taken today to promote the best possible future and an ideal ‘fit-for-purpose’ generation over the next 20 years. The four possible scenarios for the future can be viewed at

The Class of 2035 report also found that body image is a principle concern for today’s young people, particularly girls, with 45% feeling under pressure to look good.

Other key findings include:

  • 75% of young people say they enjoy PE lessons in school
  • 64% say that they feel better about themselves after doing sport
  • Nearly a quarter of today’s young people (23%) think playing a computer game with friends is a form of exercise
  • 35% of young people say they speak to friends more on social media than in person
  • Young people who described themselves as ‘always happy’ are twice as likely to take part in two or more hours of physical activity per day, and three times as likely to be a member of a school sports club
  • Over 40% of young people would like to do more exercise.

Youth Sport Trust Chief Executive Ali Oliver said: “The world has evolved considerably in the last 20 years and will undoubtedly change further over the next 20. The physical and emotional wellbeing of young people are of growing concern. The digital revolution presents opportunities and challenges with young people potential hostages to their handheld devices.

“This report clearly signals that action is needed now to modernise the approach to PE and school sport and in doing so, guarantee the best possible future for generations to come.

“If we are to avoid a future whereby young people are disengaged from physical activity, living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, we must recognise their needs today, working with Government and partners within the education, sport and health sectors to improve opportunities for young people through PE and school sport.

“Government investment through the PE and Sport Premium in recent years has helped to improve the physical literacy of young people and has laid some strong foundations to ensure a more physically active nation in the future. The challenge is to maintain these gains as children become more engaged with digital technology.

“The findings from the Class of 2035 report will be at the forefront of future planning for the Youth Sport Trust and the organisation is already considering how best to support schools to embrace technology further through its network of PE and school sport advocates, ambassadors, and professionals.”

Minister of State for Children and Families Edward Timpson MP added: “It is pleasing that the Youth Sport Trust’s research shows that millions of young people are enjoying PE lessons.

“We want to encourage all young people to get into the healthy habit of playing and enjoying sport – both inside and outside school – which is why PE remains a Government priority. We have already given primary school Headteachers over £300million to spend on improving PE – and research shows they have used this to deliver more and better sport.”

Billy Downie, Headteacher at The Streetly Academy, said: “Technology can and should be an integral tool in education. One of the areas that we’ve looked at is for pupils to be able to track health and fitness. By registering this alongside how they feel mentally, and looking at correlations with physical activity and how well they’re doing in school, we begin to plot a valuable data picture. This helps us improve not just conduct and social behaviour, but also overall academic achievement and individual determination.”

National School Sport Week 2015 is a celebration of PE and school sport which takes place 22 – 26 June in nearly 5,000 schools across the UK. Registered schools receive toolkits and resources to help provide young people with the opportunity to take part in at least one hour of physical activity every day during the week.

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