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ITV's Nina Nannar: If Usain Bolt can put his phone down, so can we

PUBLISHED: 12:57 19 December 2016 | UPDATED: 12:57 19 December 2016

Nina Nannar interviews Usain Bolt

Nina Nannar interviews Usain Bolt

Archant

Last week I interviewed Usain Bolt. He was charming, polite, funny - in fact all the things you'd imagine Usain Bolt to be.

The picture you can see was taken by his best friend NJ who, like Bolt, was on his phone, seemingly texting when I entered the interview room.

In fact, after greeting me, Bolt returned to his phone screen to finish reading/typing/sending whatever he was busy doing before switching the phone off.

It was not a problem and he apologised for keeping me waiting but hey, I was sitting in front of Usain Bolt, I could happily have done that all day!

But it got me thinking that, here he was at 30, the fastest man in the world, a supreme high achiever but he had something in common with far too many of us.

His phone was seemingly glued to his hand.

Now, as a journalist I can speak.

I have to have my damn phone with me nearly all the time, and the emails never stop, the calls from the office or potential interviewees come regardless of any days off and they can start before breakfast time.

I’m not that generation that came into the world where mobile phones and social media were already firmly entrenched in our lives.

So although the devices are in so many ways wonderful I am grateful I am not a teenager dealing with the demands of a phone and all that entails.

This is so much on my mind right now because of two news stories I have covered for ITV News in the last couple of months.

Both dealt with what experts describe as the ticking timebomb of our modern age – mental illness amongst the young.

A few days after my Usain Bolt interview I covered the news that the charity the NSPCC were reporting that nearly 19,000 young people aged 11 to 18 had had treatment in the past year for self harming.

Isn’t that a shocking figure?

And what dismayed me even more, a lot of that rise is being attributed to social media.

I spoke to a brave teenager for the news piece who outlined what can drive young people to self harm, and to struggle in silence with mental illness.

Not getting enough likes for a photo you’ve posted, seeing on your phone impossible images of beauty that no one can live up to, catching a picture on Instagram of friends getting together without you, cyber-bullying – in fact a whole cocktail which for a generation like mine who’ve come into this social media movement as fully grown, mature adults, is hard to understand.

What older people like myself and the likes of Usain Bolt can handle and perhaps smile and laugh about, are not so easy to deal with when you are an impressionable teenager.

As a parent, mobile phones are always a talking point.

We have a rule at home, mobiles can only be used to let us know if you need a lift from school, or are going to be late, then on returning home, all phones must be left alone in the kitchen.

Of course I and my husband hardly set a good example on this front.

We go on Facebook but at least we’re over 14, the legal age limit to have a Facebook account.

What the NSPCC found was that in far too many cases, young people were getting upset, or feeling pressurised by a mixture of the demands of exams, and keeping up with social media.

And then not talking about it.

I don’t know about other parents, but we are going to continue to limit phone activity, maybe just for our own peace of mind, because it is very easy to see how mental health can be affected by the goings on in cyberspace.

I have a friend, a mature student who is on a study course with other younger students from an age group for whom social media is the norm.

My friend decided to leave their Whatsapp group because she had nothing to contribute to their frequent postings, and as a result they are cold shouldering her.

This is at university.

Luckily she is grown up enough to deal with this.

But it’s worrying to think that this bullying behaviour continues when the young get older.

I don’t know the answer, but surely it has to start with talking.

I know we’re all going to be taking photos and posting them on Christmas Day.

But how about banning their use over dinner? Switching them off?

Go on, if Usain Bolt can do it, so can we.

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