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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 24 August, 2019
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'Parents are texting instead of encouraging their kids': Meath GAA club praised for banning mobile phones

Navan O’Mahonys has banned use of mobile phones by parents at their Saturday nursery sessions.

Navan O'Mahonys pictured after winning the Meath Senior Football Championship in 2014.
Navan O'Mahonys pictured after winning the Meath Senior Football Championship in 2014.
Image: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

MEATH GAA CLUB Navan O’Mahonys has been lauded for introducing a ban on mobile phones during their Saturday morning nursery training sessions.

O’Mahonys have erected a sign at their grounds encouraging parents to put their phones away during the ‘Pride of Cubs’ sessions for kids aged 4-6, so that they can focus on encouraging their children instead.

In a statement released on Monday, they said: “In today’s society, people are constantly on their phones in restaurants, bars… and the sidelines is no different. We want to change this.”

The club has received praise for their decision. Club PRO Jackie Murray said taking part in sport was vital for young children to develop and make friends, and that in a modern world where we are all guilty of spending too much time looking at screens, carving out just one hour for kids to enjoy some fun and exercise is vital.

“We were noticing that a lot of the parents were busy looking at their phones instead of noticing when their kid might kick the ball or run with the ball,” she told The42. “The parents were missing out on what their kids were doing because they were looking at their phones and texting or looking at social media.

“So two or three weeks ago we decided that for one hour on a Saturday morning phones would not be brought to the pitch. Instead parents could join in and give the kids a little bit of encouragement by being there, being present, and watching what is going on.

“It is just for an hour. We’re not asking people to forego their phones for the whole of the day. We’re just asking them for that one hour that they’re at the match with their kids. The kids that go to nursery are all between the ages of four and six years of age — and all they want is to just learn how to play football or hurling or camogie.”

Murray says that in this day and age young children are faced with so many different types of distractions, from video games, to phones, to iPads, and that maintaining an hour of outdoor exercise was crucial, especially in forging friendships.

“The kids are only that age for such a short time,” she says. “When they grow up and become teenagers and adults they are off looking after themselves. But at that age for that little while they are in the nursery it’s just about trying to encourage them and keep them interested in doing something that isn’t sitting at home on a PlayStation or an Xbox.

“It’s all about getting out, getting active and making lifelong friendships. It doesn’t matter if you’re involved with a GAA club, a soccer club, a rugby club, if you get involved you will make lifelong friends into your playing career and even into the future beyond that.”

Posted by on Saturday, 24 August 2019

This Saturday will be the first nursery session where Navan O’Mahonys’ new phone ban will be enforced. Instead of policing parents this weekend, Murray hopes that they will take the onus on themselves and just put the phone away for the hour.

“We’re hoping that the parents themselves will enforce it,” she explains. “We’re not going to walk around and take people’s phones off them. We’re hoping that the parents will see the sign and use their own initiative. All you need to do it put the phone in your pocket, zip it up and forget about it for the hour.

“The reaction has been very positive. Like everything there will be people who feel that we shouldn’t be telling them what to do. We’re not telling them, we’re just asking them. We just want people to be involved in what their child is doing instead of being on their phone.

“We’re not going to be walking around pointing at people, telling them to get off their phone. At the end of the day everyone there on the sideline is an adult. We hope they will see the sign and use their own initiative.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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