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Wearing fitness trackers harmful for schoolchildren

Wearing health and fitness tracking devices can have a negative effect on children of secondary school age and make them feel extra pressure and stress, researchers say.

Wearing health and fitness tracking devices can have a negative effect on children of secondary school age and make them feel extra pressure and stress, researchers say

tracker
Picture: Alamy

Health and fitness tracking devices can have a negative effect on children of secondary school age, researchers say.

A study led by the University of Birmingham in collaboration with Brunel University London and Orebro University in Sweden focused on young people’s use of an activity tracker and its associated health app.

The study was limited to children aged 13 to 14 taking part in physical exercise classes at two UK secondary schools over an eight-week period.

Lead author Victoria Goodyear said: ‘Initially the students were encouraged to do more physical activity by the daily 10,000 step and calorie burning targets set by the device.

100 children

aged 13 to 14 from two UK schools participated in the University of Birmingham study

‘However, we found that pupils began comparing their levels of health and activity with their peers and were clearly equating fitness and good health to being either “fit” or “not being fat”.’

She said the study found that wearing the device demotivated the children – their physical activity levels declined, and the device made them inadequate.

The goal was felt to be too prescriptive and put additional pressure and stress on the students.

Dr Goodyear added: ‘Teachers, policy-makers and health professionals must be aware that the use of health and fitness technologies in schools could have serious negative consequences for young people’s health. To encourage positive impacts, young people’s viewpoints must be sought.’


Goodyear V et al (2017) Young people’s uses of wearable healthy lifestyle technologies; surveillance, self-surveillance and resistance. Sport, Education and Society. doi: 10.1080/13573322.2017.1375907

 

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