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The impact of technology on children's physical activity
The impact of technology on children's physical activity

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6 Growth in wearable technology: is this reaching children?

Another form of technology that is receiving growing media and academic attention is wearable technology, which consists of a range of different devices that can be worn and that record and display health and physical activity information.

Research from Mintel (a market intelligence agency) reported that more than three million wrist-worn wearable devices, such as fitness bands and smartwatches, were estimated to have been sold in the UK in 2015, an increase of 118 per cent from 2014 (Mintel, 2016). However, what this doesn’t tell us is how many of these users are children.

With activity trackers for children being a relatively new product on the market (as of 2016), there is very little research examining the impact of fitness trackers on children’s physical activity. However, one study found that using wearable technology within physical education classes increased physical activity, motivation and goal-setting performance (Barbee and Bennett, 2016).

Activity 6 looks at a more personal account of the use of fitness trackers in a family.

Activity 6 A family account of fitness trackers

Timing: Allow 25 minutes

Read the short article Electronic activity trackers encourage family fun and fitness [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . This is a peer-reviewed article presenting previous academic research alongside a first-hand account of using fitness trackers as a family and therefore providing an interesting mix of data. Using the information from this article, as well as your own experiences and thoughts, note down the advantages and disadvantages of the use of activity trackers with children for increasing physical activity levels.

Discussion

The fact that many children are competitive can be seen as an advantage, as children naturally want to have the best score, and this may act as a motivating factor. If friends have trackers too, this may also become a form of socialising. Some trackers use rewards that children enjoy and which keep them motivated. From your own experience or observations, you may also have noted that the way trackers look might play a part in whether or not children want to wear them, as well as how comfortable they are wearing them.

However, trackers may also have the opposite effect if children believe they are constantly achieving less than everyone else; recording and sharing results can become demotivating if not managed positively. Cost may also be a disadvantage, with perhaps the more desirable brands carrying a less affordable price tag. In addition, some trackers do not capture all activities, such as cycling and swimming, as mentioned in the article, so depending on a child’s activities, a tracker may not always be suitable.