Fitness Trackers Helpful or Harmful

Fitness Trackers Helpful or Harmful

Over the last fifty years we have seen a real change in the way we raise children. Think about the childhood of someone born in the 1970's to someone born in the last ten years. It’s obvious they are quite different experiences. Being a child in the 1970's meant being outside, riding bikes and not coming home until dinner time.

It’s different today. Today children are inside more and if outside tend to be within the boundaries of their backyards. Everywhere we look it can seem like there is a screen. Mobile phones, tablets, gaming devices, television and laptops. There is constant pressure on parents to regulate screen use. Children will embrace all new technology. If left unchecked they will stay glued to a screen for hours.

Can we use this interest in tech to increase their physical activity? Are fitness trackers the answer?

How much screen time should they have?

The Australian 24hr Movement Guidelines are based on the best evidence available and tell us how much screen time children should have. For the under two’s screen time is not recommended. For those aged 2 - 5 years the recommendation is the keep screen time to one hour (less is better). For those aged 5 - 17 years screen time should not be more than 2 hours a day (not including screens for school work). Read more about screen time

What do the experts tell us about fitness trackers and children?

Adults have been wearing various forms of fitness trackers for some years now. One third of people who buy fitness trackers stop using them within six months. More than half abandon them altogether.

More and more children are using fitness trackers. Most of the studies in this area are on adults and fitness trackers. We know adults and children do physical activities for very different reasons. The physical activities are also different. Therefore, we can’t say children benefit from fitness trackers in the same way adults can. There isn’t enough information yet on whether fitness trackers are useful in increasing activity levels in children. The message is if parents want to increase their child’s activity levels there are more tried and true ways to do this.

Tips for getting your children moving (without the tech)

  • Encourage children to play active games like tag, skipping or throwing a ball or a frisbee.
  • Go to playgrounds, parks, nature reserves, ovals and beaches as family activities. Read more on how to be active as a family
  • Get children involved in a variety of different sports and activities.
  • Put portable electronic devices out of sight.
  • Use active travel for short trips such as walking or cycling. For longer trips, park the car some distance away and walk with children for the rest of the trip. Read more about 'part way is OK!'
  • Remember to start slowly and build up the amount and intensity of physical activity.

Find more about physical activity for children and families on the Healthy Kids website