There are two reasons that I was tempted to give my child a Fitbit. Firstly she wanted one as some of her friends had one! Secondly, I thought that it would motivate her to move more. With hindsight, she is very active anyway so there was no need for more. Like some adults, I could see her joining us for walks and runs to get the numbers up. The non-branded movement trackers were around $20, so it was a good option for a Christmas present. In the end, her Grandad got her one.
Did Our Child Move More With the Fitbit?
No. Quite simply, for my daughter, it was too much hassle. Firstly it had to be toggled to a smartphone. As my 8-year-old does not have one, it was joined with my wife’s. Then she had to remember to charge it every night. Within a few days, the phase had passed, and it became another piece of consumerist tat getting dust in our house. I was very relieved that we had not brought a more expensive one.
Do Fitbits Lead to Eating Disorders?
In our house and with my daughter at the age she is, it didn’t. However, reading the literature, this is not necessarily always the case. Whether it can ‘cause’ an eating disorder or body dysmorphism is questionable. It can definitely be used as a compulsive tool for someone who feels that they need to quantify calories or exercise. Whether this should be added to a household is questionable and is similar to the argument with bathroom scales. If there is a ‘numerical target’ it can be beaten or lowered.
It does reinforce however the importance of your child having a healthy relationship with food.
At What Age Should Children Have Fitbits?
Elizabeth Oates wrote an excellent blog in the Huffington Post, and I share many of her sentiments. Junior school children should be running around for the love of it. If they need some stimulation, there are some excellent interactive games like HomeCourt.
It would be an unavoidable logical progression for teenagers as wearable technology like smartwatches become more commonplace. Again I would stress that, in my opinion, it could exacerbate an underlying problem rather than cause one. With professional supervision, it could actually help with treatment. As most smartphones have an activity tracker stopping your child from buying a Fitbit or the like will just mean they use something else. If your child has an activity tracker, I think it is more a case for us as parents to see how they are using it.