A Fitness Tracker For Kids?

On March 13, Fitbit announced a new smartwatch and fitness tracker for kids called Fitbit Ace. The new device is the company’s first fitness product aimed at children. According to Fitbit, it’s designed to motivate kids and also allow families to stay active together. This product joins Fitbit’s existing line of wristbands and smart watches that can be used to track steps and activities and whichrecord progress on an app to keep people active.

Company representatives say that the purpose of the Fitbit Ace is to encourage kids to build habits around being physically active from an early age.. Parents can use the Fitbit app to track their kids’ activity levels and hours slept and approve the people with whom kids can share their activities and reward badges. Fitbit says Ace accounts will not be allowed to join the social component of the regular Fitbit app, which lets users share photos and workout summaries in an Instagram-like feed. According to The Verge, Kids will also be limited to just ten watch faces they can use to customize their fitness bands, compared to the hundreds available from third-party developers for Fitbit Ionic and Versa.

Like the Fitbit Alta, the Ace is showerproof and advertises a battery life of up to five days. Instead of developing a brand-new watch for kids, Fitbit says it adapted from the Alta because they want to target children who are becoming old enough to start paying attention to their fitness. Fitbit’s vice president of product marketing Melanie Chase said the idea is to easily transition kids between their fitness tracker and the adult version, while also helping children feel more mature by using a product that looks and feels grown up.

Fitbit is advertising this new device for children as “the fun side of fitness.” As Fitbit notes, nearly 20 percent of kids in the U.S. are overweight.

Like a regular Fitbit, the Ace uses push notifications to encourage children to increase their steps or get moving if the device senses a sustained period of inactivity. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the rate of childhood obesity for ages 6 to 11 was four percent for the period 1971 to 1974, and had increased to 18 percent for the period of 2009 to 2010. The AHA also noted that childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking. To help combat obesity, Fitbit intends for the Ace to keep kids moving for 60 active minutes a day and focus on getting nine to 12 hours of sleep.

While this could be a valuable product, some parents may be doubtful about the necessity of a fitness tracker device for their children. Children naturally are more active and have more energy than their adult counterparts. They usually have more free time as well and more structured times for recreation. Other parents may question the wisdom of a device using screens and smart devices to track health, when childhood obesity may be largely due to a childhood fixation of “screens” of all types. Still others may be worried about privacy concerns, regardless of safeguards Fitbit says are in place. Even though the company may say they take precautions, it is still possible that hackers may gain unauthorized access to children’s fitness data.

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