Online activity a threat to health of young people

New World Health Organisation (WHO) report findings cause for concern

Written by Conor McCreesh


A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that a dramatic rise in the use of computers and social media is wreaking havoc on the health of young people. The report found constant use of social media is causing us to engage in low levels of exercise and bad eating habits. This behaviour is gradually having an impact on our health, the report explains, because remaining sedentary for long periods of time and bad diets is leading to weight gain and health complications. The WHO says that by simply reducing screen time, eating healthier and increasing physical activity levels; we can improve our health dramatically.

The study by the WHO, based its findings on a questionnaire sent to more than 200,000 children in 42 countries. The report found a continuous increase between 2002 and 2014 in the proportion of children and young people using technology for two hours or more each weekday for things like social media, surfing the internet and homework. While use increased for both genders, it more than tripled for girls aged 15 and over during this period, with experts blaming the increase on the rise of social media. A breakdown of the findings by age showed children as young as 11 spending a large amounts of time online. When it came to using computers, tablets or smartphones for gaming; between a third and two-thirds of children were spending two or more hours every weekday on them. 

Experts say this is leading to an increasing risk of ill-health, with the vast majority of young people also failing to take the recommended level of exercise each day. While social media is leading to positive social connectedness, the authors say there are risks, like cyber bullying, impact on mental health, as well as lost sleep. Other data also reported that Ireland was among the countries with the lowest rate of 15-year-old girls watching TV for two hours or more per day, while approximately 60% of 15-year-old boys from Ireland participated in vigorous physical activity four times a week or more in 2014. Ireland was among the countries with the greatest overall decrease in adolescent daily soft-drinks consumption. It also had one of the biggest drops, 24%, in those eating sweets every day.

For more, you can read the full report here: Adolescent obesity and related behaviours: trends and inequalities in the WHO European Region, 2002–2014


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