Can Activity Trackers Help Your Child Be Healthier?
The point of activity trackers, in general, is to make wearers more aware of their level of activity. Activity trackers can collect an enormous amount of data about your child’s daily level of activity. This is important as scientific research has established the risks of physical inactivity. Activity trackers can also enhance student engagement in school.
But are activity trackers really necessary? What about simple, ordinary play? Isn’t that enough? Sadly, no. Not because play is in some way insufficient, but because today’s children don’t play like kids used to. They more often than not spend hours glued to some sort of screen instead of playing and exploring outside.
Children are not as active as they used to be
Lack of physical activity amongst people in general, including children and teens, is an increasing public health problem worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, more than 80% of the world’s adolescent population is insufficiently physically active. Inactivity leads to obesity which is also increasing at alarming rates amongst children/ Still, can wearing an activity tracker reverse this trend?
Probably not. Not in itself and not without incorporating other behavioral changes. The thing is, the efficacy of fitness trackers for children has not been studied comprehensively, but research has shown they could help people change their behavior.
Activity trackers for kids are a good idea if they lead to behavioral change
The trackers that were created with behavioral change in mind, show children clear information about their movements throughout the day, like how many steps they took. And they offer some kind of reward for good behavior in the form of increased activity. Many kids respond positively to rewards for taking part in challenges and it might encourage them to change their behavior. In this case, an activity tracker for a child who loves a challenge and receiving rewards is a good option.
Dr. Lauren Sherar, who specializes in physical activity and health in children at Loughborough University, told TechRadar that preliminary data is positive. “Activity monitors may have the potential to increase children’s activity levels in the short term through self-monitoring and goal setting, two effective behavior change techniques.”
An activity tracker can help children and teens to become more aware of how active or inactive they are. Gentle reminders to get up and walk around a bit, or go outside and play with a ball or the dog may help children to develop a healthy lifestyle from an early age.
Activity tracking is not without problems
Sherar told TechRadar that data about the long term effectiveness of activity tracking is still lacking. Some experts believe that encouraging kids to look at stats relating to health and activity every day can contribute to an obsessive focus on image, body weight and fitness in the long-run.
Joshua Kozak, CEO at HASfit and CEO at Wellthon warned in an interview with TechRadar that overly controlling parents could turn a lack of enough exercise into a negative experience for a child by yelling at them or grounding them. This can, of course, create a negative association with exercise that carries on into adulthood. Research has also found an association between fitness tracking technology and eating disorders.
Activity trackers may well help some children to develop a healthy lifestyle, but without the right guidance children can develop a dislike for activity and play and that would really be a shame.