There’s a lot of debate over whether kids’ fitness trackers are a good or bad idea. Naysayers believe they perpetuate body image issues, making kids feel self-conscious about themselves, or placing too much focus on weight and physical appearance.
But fitness trackers are really about promoting and encouraging healthy habits. If approached properly, they can be a great tool for kids to gauge their activity while also being quite fun. With lots of achievements and rewards, it’s also a way for kids to enjoy “gaming” without being parked on the couch in front of the TV or a tablet all day.
It’s up to the parents, of course, to approach the idea of a fitness tracker in the right way with kids and let them know that it’s all in good fun, and they’re not being tracked to make sure they live up to some standard.
So why get a fitness tracker for your child? Here are some benefits.
10 It Promotes Healthy Habits
The main benefit of any fitness tracker is to promote healthy habits. By seeing how many steps they take per day, and working to achieve personal goals, kids might be more inclined to go outside and play for an hour or ride their bike versus indulging in video games and snacks.
Kids can see steps, active minutes, and be rewarded with special badges when they accomplish goals which, for kids who are typically active at school during sports lessons or recess, will be pretty easy to do.
9 It Gets Them Motivated
Kids will love looking at the tracker’s screen (if it has one) or the app to see how close (or far) they are from reaching their daily step count or active minute goals, and it can motivate them to work harder. No one is judging them but seeing the numbers might motivate kids to pick up more active hobbies, like sports, or run around the backyard a few times to up their step counts instead of watching a TV show or playing on their tablet before dinnertime.
They might be less likely to complain if they have to walk home from school instead of getting a ride, or that they’re tired after hiking on vacation. Having a tracker gives them the motivation to keep going.
8 It’s Fun to Use!
Kids trackers usually have lots of fun features, like rewards in the form of rocket ships that blast across the screen, timers they can use for fun games, and other notifications. In the app, which is managed and monitored by the parent, they can see encouragements, pick a cute avatar, and make a game out of challenges and exercises.
With a tracker like the Garmin vivofit jr., kids can earn virtual coins to redeem for rewards from their parents. There’s no punishment for not being active enough, but rewards when you are. Plus, the device can be used to keep track of more than just physical activity, but also chores. As the child completes a chore - like finishing homework, feeding the dog, or making their bed - they check off the item to earn a virtual coin.
7 Parents Can See The Kids' Activity Levels
Parents manage the accounts and keep track of how active their kids are on a day-to-day basis. This can provide insight into what the kids do at school and how they compare to other kids of the same age and gender. The kids themselves don’t need to know the average activity level for their age, gender, and weight, but the parents can benefit from having this information.
The insight could prove useful in developing more active family activities if you feel your child isn’t getting enough exercise at school or modifying dinner plans. Conversely, if the child is doing awesome, meeting or exceeding step goals every day, cheer them on!
6 Families Can Have Fun Challenges
If other members of the family have fitness trackers as well, you can engage in fun family challenges for steps. It can be kids against parents, siblings against one another, or parent against a child to see who can get the most steps in a day or week, or on a weekend. The winner gets to pick the movie for family movie night, or what’s on the menu for dinner.
Kids will have fun trying to beat their parents at step challenges. And participating not only motivates the kids but the parents as well.
5 Kids Can Combine Gaming With Physical Activity
Every kid loves gaming, whether it’s a video game, cards, board games, or simply playing with toys. And competitive gaming? Even better. Using an activity tracker combines gaming with being active, applauding kids when they achieve daily step goals, win different challenges, and unlock new features or “levels.”
It’s sort of like a video game on the wrist, with some trackers offering more game-like features than others. With the LeapFrog LeapBand, for example, kids get points for doing small activities (walking, dancing, or crawling like a turtle) that can be cashed in to spend on items for their virtual pets.
4 Parents Can Use Comparative Data to Make Adjustments to Lifestyles
Most activity trackers for kids work with an app that a parent manages, though older kids might have access to it from their tablet or smartphone as well. While kids shouldn’t spend too much time focused on comparative data, parents can use the insights to make modifications to the family lifestyle.
Perhaps if parents see that their kids are way below average for activity levels of kids their age, they can plan a quick soccer game in the backyard after dinner each night or make walking the dog a family affair where everyone does a quick walk around the block.
3 They Don’t Focus on Calories
While adult trackers include features like how many calories you’ve burned, kids shouldn’t have to worry about this or feel guilty for having birthday cake at the party or a few cookies and chips after dinner. This is why most kids’ trackers focus just on steps, sleep, and fun goals for step counts without making kids feel as though they need to live up to a particular standard.
With the Fitbit Ace 2, for example, there’s a special Kid View that shows just steps, active minutes, sleep, and any motivational messages they’ve received from friends or family cheering them on.
2 It’s a Good Bonding Experience
Just like exercising together is a great way to bond with friends; wearing an activity tracker, comparing daily steps, active minutes, and distance traveled, can be a fun bonding experience among kids and their parents, siblings, and friends.
A trip to the mall, amusement park, or to the corner store might be more enjoyable as you all try to rack up as many steps as you can to win a friendly family competition.
1 You Can Track Your Child’s Sleep Quality and Duration
With activity trackers like the Fitbit Ace 2, you can also track your child’s sleep, including not only the duration but also the quality. The app reports the total number of hours of sleep the child gets each night, including what time they officially fell asleep, and when they woke up.
You will also receive useful data like the amount of time they were restless through the night, awake, or awake and restless at the same time. This data can prove useful in ensuring that the child is getting enough sleep, and actually going to bed when they say they are. And can give parents insight into how a lack of sleep might impact the child's behavior.