Young Irish into technology, but wary of risks

20 Nov 2008

A new EU-wide survey shows that most 15-25 year-olds in Ireland are broadly confident science brings more benefits than harm, but they are cautious about possible health risks.

The Eurobarometer survey, which measures young people’s attitudes to science and technology, was conducted during September on behalf of the European Commission.

Four out of 10 young Irish people surveyed think using a mobile phone might be dangerous for their health, while nearly a fifth think there’s no risk at all. The survey also revealed that nearly six out of 10 young Irish people feel living near high-tension power lines might be dangerous, which is more or less in line with the EU average.

When it comes to innovations in technology and science, young people across the EU are very interested in advances in mobile phones, and the Irish are no exception. Most of those surveyed (84pc) said they’d heard about innovations in mobile phone technology and were interested in them. This is the second-highest level of interest of all Europeans – second only to the Maltese.

Just over half of those polled are aware of and interested in innovations in nuclear energy and human embryo research, but advances in genetically modified food and nanotechnology fail to spark the same levels of interest. Only about a third of those polled said they were interested in advances in these fields.

A minority of those polled across the EU said they were considering studying scientific subjects. Less than one third of Irish 15-25 year-olds are thinking about studying biology, medicine or engineering, and only a fifth are considering studying natural sciences. Meanwhile, 86pc of those polled think girls and young women should be further encouraged to take up studies and careers in science, and almost three quarters said natural science classes at school are not appealing enough.

By Sorcha Corcoran

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years