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Physical activity: a family affair
Physical activity: a family affair

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3 Are children becoming less active?

In an age of games consoles and internet chat rooms, the media has widely reported that modern-day children are becoming less active. Box 1 refers to a survey published by British Triathlon and Tata Steel (2011) that illustrates these concerns.

Box 1 2011 Survey on children and physical activity

In a 2011 survey conducted by British Triathlon and Tata Steel of 1,500 children aged six to fifteen, results found 10% cannot ride a bike, 15% cannot swim and 22% had never run a distance of 400m. One of the most interesting aspects was that a third of the children questioned said they did not own a bike, while three quarters (77%) had a games console. In the week before the poll was conducted in March 2011, just 46% had ridden their bikes and 34% had swum the length of a pool, but 73% had played a video game. 15% of the children said they had never played sport with their parents.

(BBC, 2011)

The statistics in Box 1 imply that in many families physical activity may not be considered a priority. However, should we accept these statistics as being accurate or should we look more deeply into this survey to question the information we are presented with? The next activity will help you begin to formulate a critical approach to evaluating research.

Activity 2 Statistics: the bigger picture

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes

Read the online article ‘Bad news: are kids turning their backs on sports? [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ’ (Merseyside Skeptics Society, 2011). What point is the author trying to make about statistics?

Discussion

The main point of this article is to stress that when faced with statistics, particularly those published by the media, it is important to question the source of such evidence, and the reliability and validity of data collection. Without having the full results available and viewing the precise data collection method, analysis proves difficult. Even when we are not in possession of the exact data, it is generally advisable to do some common-sense thinking about vested interests and alternative explanations, and the author does point out some ‘potential biases’.