Fitbit for kids? Reservations amidst potential new health motivations

Health technology is an advancing market as the trend of tracking daily eating and exercise flourishes. Countless mobile apps exist to monitor running mileage, steps, heart rate, calories, and sleep cycle—a list which is by no means exhaustive. Moreover, wearable devices like those created by Fitbit aim to give consumers the health data they want without the inconvenience of carrying a phone everywhere. After seeing success among young adults, Bloomberg reported just last month that the fitness tracking company is looking to develop a wristband for kids. Fitbit guidelines currently suggest users be 13 years or older, so the market for this new device would likely be those 12 and under.

The idea is indeed an exciting prospect for children’s health. Just as the product has incentivized thousands of its young adult consumers to live more active lifestyles, it could do the same for kids. After all, younger generations love tech, but unfortunately most electronics—television, video games, computer time— encourage us to be sedentary. A smartwatch like the Fitbit could change that. For example, since getting Fitbits, my mom and sister have friendly competitions over who can get the most steps in a given day or week. They’re not alone in their game—Fitbit has a built in “challenge” function just for this purpose. Maybe challenges can start at a younger age, getting kids eager for active games rather than competing on couches with headsets via Xbox live. This new tech could potentially appeal to a wider range of children, including those who may not be into traditional sports.

While all of that sounds promising, it’s also important to consider the slippery slope health monitoring can follow. Data can be helpful, but it should not hijack our motivations.. In a society that continues to value health numbers, we’ve seen it get to a point of overvalue, where we face problems like excess stress and even eating disorders. If kids are exercising only for a number, not for fun, the Fitbit could take all the enjoyment out of recess and free time - a counterproductive consequence. Devices like Fitbits might also unintentionally act as indicators for  whose family can or cannot afford such devices, which raises questions of what health means in this era.  Health should not depend on someone’s ability to buy a wearable tracking device.

A Fitbit designed for kids could have the power to keep young people educated about health from an early age. This is a goal everyone can get behind. However, it also demands that we consider our reliance on health data. These points should be kept in mind and kept in check as health technology further modernizes.