THE world around us is becoming more virtual, and has become more virtual, almost daily.

Smartphones, constant connection and the rise of on-demand services driven by the internet mean that many children, and indeed many younger adults, will never know the world of landline telephony.

While that previous generation of technology may have carried its inconveniences, it also allowed more time for contemplation and reduced interruption.

The findings of a University of Newcastle study that most girls between five and 12 years old have not mastered sporting skills like kicking, throwing and catching is concerning. While the findings show boys generally outperformed girls, they also indicated boys need to be more active.

Dr Narelle Eather, a senior lecturer in the university’s school of education, is clear. “The majority of children are not active enough,” she said. “Skill development programs currently running in schools and sporting programs are clearly not working.”

While these skills may seem relevant only to the sporting fields and courts of recreation, Dr Eather argues they often have consequences. Competency in these areas can lead to better fitness and health generally, including cognitive function and socio-emotional health.

Many modern children live in a realm of increasing demands on them foracademic and extracurricular achievement. Perhaps it is that breadth of commitments that has led to physical activity and play that can help develop movement skills falling by the wayside. The influx of digital amusements is unlikely to be conducive to better outcomes either, attracting children’s attention in hours previous generations occupied with gamesthat generallyrequired greater physical exertion.

The gender imbalance in the world-first study is also alarming. With professional women’s sport growing in prominence and appeal, and world-class sides like the Matildas visiting the Hunter, there is hope that theirexamples could lead to greater interest and support of girls in developing these skills into the future.

Parents and schools both have perhaps the most obvious roles in addressing this issue, but given these skills’ potentialimpact on the health and well-being of the children, it may take a village to help them develop tools that will serve them through their lives.

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