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Over half of 9-year-olds in Ireland have mobile phones, new research shows

The number of kids taking part in sport, music and dance are down, as well as the amount of children who are reading outside of school.

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Maeve McTaggartSunday World

Over half of nine-year-olds have their own mobile phone, a “concerning” new report has revealed.

The Growing Up in Ireland report took a look at how the lives of nine-year-olds have changed across the last decade and the results were stark.

The number of kids taking part in sport, music and dance are down, as well as the amount of children who are reading outside of school.

Research by the ESRI has revealed that more time watching TV or on screens makes children less likely to engage in other activities.

Just 34 percent of children play sport every day, while 44 percent take part in music or dance lessons.

This marks a 10 percent drop for those who were nine-year-old a decade ago.

Now more than half of nine-year-olds are armed with their own phones, another 10 percent increase on 2008.

The research shows that gender makes a big difference in how Irish nine-year-olds experience the world.

Girls are found to be closer with their parents and have les conflict, while boys are seen to have smaller friendship groups and see their friends less often.

Girls are more likely to read for please but less likely to take part in sports. They also spend less time on digital devices than boys.

Girls are more positive towards school overall but a lot less positive about Maths.

The ESRI says this opinion grows even more over time.

"There are concerning trends in children’s involvement in sports, cultural pursuits and reading, activities that enhance their development,” said author of the report Professor Emer Smyth.

"Continued efforts on the part of schools and libraries will be crucial in trying to reverse the decline in reading for pleasure found among many groups of children.”

Prof Smyth told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the research on Irish children in important to make urgent changes.

She said the change in children’s activities may be due t time spent on screens.

"We do see a shift in the kind of screen time, an increase in the proportion of mobile phones and a shift away from television to other devices,” she said.

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