Are Fitness Trackers Good Idea for Kids?

Behavior & Development • Jan 08, 2019

Are Fitness Trackers a Good Idea for Kids?

Fitness tracking devices have become all the rage over the last few years.  Companies like Garmin and Fitbit are constantly coming up with new ideas to improve the devices they sell to include more information for the wearer.  These devices can track simple things like steps per day to body fat and calorie counts.  I personally have owned a variety of these devices. They provide motivation to keep me moving even when I am stuck in the office all day.  Adults tend to do well and improve movement when wearing fitness trackers.  But what about kids?  My oldest daughter begged for a fitness tracker for Christmas.  She is already super active so I’ve never been concerned about how much she moves.  Several of her friends already had one. She loved the idea of seeing how many steps she can get on a daily basis. We decided to go for it.

Kids and Exercise

As I did research on what type I wanted to buy for her I came across numerous articles that voiced concerns over kids wearing fitness trackers.  The biggest concern is that it would promote unhealthy ideas about weight/losing weight and that kids would become overly focused on these issues rather than just playing like a “normal kid.”  After doing a little more research, it seems that globally fitness trackers for kids are a good thing. But the focus needs to be in the right place.  Some studies show that fitness trackers have helped overweight and obese adolescents with weight loss, blood pressure, and lowering body fat. So there definitely is a place for them with children.  Below are a few tips and ideas to keep your child happy and healthy with a new fitness tracker.

Factors to Consider:

  • Think about what motivates your child: Some kids are very motivated by goals. Many trackers offer badges and other incentives for reaching certain step numbers and trends.  If this isn’t what gets your kid moving then a fitness tracker might not be the right thing for them.
  • Keep the right focus for your child’s age: The youngest wearers should not have access to things like calorie counts and body fat percentages. (Most of the trackers designed for young children either don’t have these settings or keep them obscured.)  They should simply be looking at goals for activity and steps.  As they get older they can shift to other things but not until the later teenage years.
  • Keep it positive! Emphasis should be on personal goals for your child.  You should encourage them regardless of the number of steps they take in a day.  It shouldn’t be stressful for your child!  If they seemed stressed about it, it may be good to take some time off from the tracker. Focus on fun activities instead.
  • Use it as a healthy message for the whole family: Getting the whole family moving can be a big positive to everyone having a fitness tracker. The whole family can get into the groove of working towards step goals and spending more time doing physically active things rather than remaining sedentary.

Moving Forward

We are now about two weeks into my daughter wearing her new device. She still loves it.  Some days she goes way over her goal and other days she doesn’t—either way she doesn’t seem to be bothered.  She will sometimes do a little extra running around the house just to get to a certain number of steps and her siblings will follow, keeping the whole bunch more active.  Fitness tracker or not, the main focus for all kids should be 60 minutes per day of fun physical activity to keep them happy and healthy.