Should your child use an activity tracker wristband?

Building off the popularity of activity trackers like Fitbit for adults, there’s now an armband available for 4 to 7-year-olds that acts as a physical activity monitor and virtual pet. It’s worn like a watch, and children earn points that unlock prizes and games for their virtual pet as they run, walk, and jump.

Encouraging physical activity at a young age provides a positive message to your child about living a healthy lifestyle. However, is it right to encourage physical activity so you can advance along in a video game?  Do young children really need a video game to be physically active?

We also already have an abundance of electronics around us. You can look in at almost any type of gathering and notice kids, teens, and adults constantly on cell phones, tablets, iPods, and other portable video game devices. Do kids need another electronic device, especially one worn around their wrist?

I do believe encouraging physical activity is an important and a good message, but encouraging physical activity to play more video games sends conflicting messages to your child.  I would rather parents take their children outside and play with them, create bonding opportunities and lasting memories. If you are trying to help your child become more physically active, try one of these suggestions:

1. Pick fun games or sports to play and plan them ahead of time

  • Sports: basketball, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, tennis
  • Game: tag, hide and go seek or sharks and minnows in the pool
  • Place to go: park, bike rides, amusement parks, beach, pool

2. Give your child lots of specific praise

  • During the whole time you are playing outside; give them praise that is specific to what they did well. Use phrases such as: Wow you are running fast!, Great catch!, What a big kick!
3. Make physical activity part of your daily routine
  • Try everyday right after school or right before dinner

4. Limit Screen time: TV, Computer, Video Games, cell phones (anything with a screen)

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day for children 2-years-old and older. When your limit for screen time is up, get outside and play.
  • Many children really enjoy screen time and if they are given the choice of playing outside or playing video games, they may pick video games. Don’t give your child the choice.

Even though I do not recommend activity bands for young children, there may be circumstances where they are helpful. For instance, it would be perfect on a rainy day or if you and your child are not able to play outside. The arm band does have some fun physical activities to try such as jumping like a kangaroo.

It is very important to encourage young children to be physically active, especially 4 to 7-year-olds. Children would benefit most from playing outside with their friends and family. Urging them to be active because it is fun and healthy, gets them involved in sports, and because you also want to exercise is more beneficial then being encouraged to play a video game to win prizes for a “virtual pet.”

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