(This is a guest post by Joe Wilson who is currently doing an internship with HBSC England)
The last national report for HBSC England shows that only about a third of 11 year old boys, and less than a fifth of 11 year old girls, meet the recommended levels of physical activity. Participation in physical activity decreases with age, so by the time they hit 15 years of age even fewer young people meet the recommended target of at least one hour per day (Brooks et al. 2011). It seems to be common knowledge that children and adolescents are considered to be lazy by media outlets and wider society in general. An example of this can be quoted from Broers (2010) who suggests that young people are ‘probably lazier than ever before’. They go on to say that ‘teens do struggle with pulling themselves off the couch, just as much as they did 20 years ago. But in today’s world there is much more keeping them sitting’. This article will look at the way in which the media portrays young people of today in terms of their declining exercise rates and will look to offer reasons as to why this is the case.
Whilst doing a scan of the immediate media outlets, it is evident to see a clear pattern of negativity towards young people in terms of their exercise rates and general laziness. CBC News (2011) suggests that in Canada, only 7% of young people aged between 6 and 19 participated in enough exercise to be able to see the health benefits. This goes to show that exercise rates have been decreasing in recent years and media agencies have been picking up on such statistics in order to label the youth of today as ‘lazy’. The Washington Times (2008) is another example of a media agency claiming that young people of today have become lazy. It suggests that perhaps young people become lazy as they become older: 90% of children aged 9 in the USA get at least a couple of hours of exercise each day, which is a huge contrast to teenagers aged 15 in the same nation where less than a third get the same amount of exercise each day.
The Daily Mail (2004) points the blame of falling exercise rates of adolescents towards the parents. It suggests that most parents do not care if their child gets the required amount of exercise. It goes on to say that four out of five parents claimed that they were unconcerned about their children being inactive. Woodhouse (2012) adds to this by saying that parents need to be stricter with their children when it comes to exercise, and not let excuses such as the weather result in letting children play video games rather than going outside to play.
However, Singhateh (2013) disagrees with the media labelling young people as being lazy and instead cites the reason for the falling rate of youth exercise is in fact the lack of opportunities available for young people to get involved with sport. Lowry et al. (2005) also agree with this suggesting that a lack of sporting opportunities within the schooling system is to blame for the low exercise rates within children and adolescents. Fox (2012) also extends on this claiming that even Prince Harry believed that there are not enough opportunities for young people to participate in sport. At the 2012 London Olympic Games, there was a clear lack of state school educated winners in Team GB. This goes to show that perhaps the government is not doing enough to fund and encourage the participation of sport at school. BBC News (2008) found out that in a poll of 3,700 teenagers, 72% would prefer to visit the gym, play football or attend a youth club than hang around at home. However, 4 out of 5 of which claimed that there were not enough for them to do and participate in their local community.
According to statistics, perhaps the media are right in saying that young people are lazy. However, I believe it is much deeper than this and maybe perhaps it is lazy parenting and lack of opportunities to become active that has led to this labelling of young people today. Perhaps more needs to be done to solve this problem of lazy children and adolescents today rather than the continuous barrage of complaints about them.
2nd year Human Geography student, University of Hull
BBC News (2008). Poll dispels 'lazy teenager' myth. [online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7698201.stm [Accessed: 11 Jul 2013].
Broers, S (2010). Why are teens so lazy today?. [online] Available at: http://www.examiner.com/article/why-are-teens-so-lazy-today [Accessed: 11 Jul 2013].
Brooks, F and Magnusson, J et al. (2011). HBSC England National Report. Findings from the 2010 HBSC study for England. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire.
CBC News (2011). Canadian youth woefully inactive. [online] Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2011/01/19/fitness-canadians-health.html [Accessed: 11 Jul 2013].
Daily Mail (2004). Parents 'do not care' about lazy children. [online] Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-326145/Parents-care-lazy-children.html[Accessed: 11 Jul 2013].
Fox, E (2012). Prince Harry hits out at 'lack of opportunities' in sport for young people | UK | News | Daily Express. [online] Available at: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/337043/Prince-Harry-hits-out-at-lack-of-opportunities-in-sport-for-young-people [Accessed: 11 Jul 2013].
Lowry, R et al. (2005). Young People: Physical Health, Exercise and Recreation. [e-book].
Singhateh, M (2013). Young People Are Not Lazy. [online] Available at: http://www.foroyaa.gm/the-future-generation/13526-young-people-are-not-lazy [Accessed: 11 Jul 2013].
The Washingtion Times (2008). Youth grow lazy as they get older. [online] Available at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/jul/16/youth-grow-lazy-as-they-get-older/?page=all [Accessed: 11 Jul 2013].
Woodhouse, C (2012). Fat’s your lot. [online] Available at: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/4443257/Parents-are-offered-help-to-prevent-rain-sodden-summer-making-kids-fat-and-lazy.html [Accessed: 11 Jul 2013].