Irish kids sure are growing up fast.
A new Irish study has found that almost half of nine-year-old children in Ireland own their own cell phones and have a TV in their bedrooms.
The Growing Up in Ireland project reports that while 45 percent of the 8,500 nine-year-olds interviewed have phones and TVs, one in four of the children are overweight or obese.
The Irish government funded national study, carried out by researchers from the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin, published their fascinating findings of the initial phase of the €29 million ($40 million) Longitudinal Study of Children on Friday. They will also track the lives of 11,000 nine-month-old children, who will be followed up at age three.
Other key statistics, thought to be related to findings that 19 percent of the children are overweight, while seven percent are classified as obese, are that two-thirds of the children spend between one and three hours a day watching TV, while a further nine percent spend three to five hours in front of the tube.
Co-director of the Growing Up in Ireland study Professor James Williams said that the fact that so many Irish nine-year-olds own cell phones and TVs reveals the direction in which Ireland is moving.
A Dublin based company currently sells a mobile phone specifically designed for young children called the Firefly. The brightly colored phone looks like a toy, but it has four buttons - two of which are for mom and dad - that will make real phone calls. As of June, over 7,000 phones had already been sold in Ireland, and the company announced plans to branch out sales to Britain, though official government advice there says to avoid giving cell phones to children under the age of 16 due to radiation concerns.
But in the Growing Up in Ireland study, almost all of the children’s parents reported that their sons and daughters were in good health, with 74 percent saying their child is “very healthy,” and 25 percent reporting their child as “healthy, but a few minor problems.”
Williams said a follow-up study that will take place when the children are 13 will reveal if their technological possessions had affected their health and development.
Speaking at the launch of the new statistics, Irish Minister for Children Barry Andrews expressed his concern at the child obesity levels in Ireland, but recognized that the findings will help inform government policy making decisions.
Andrews said: "A great deal of thought and work has gone into the design and implementation of this landmark study.
"It is clear that the study has the potential to assist in developing policies that will improve the lives of children in Ireland.
"I look forward to an even greater wealth of knowledge from this study."