Oct 22, 2018

Dr. Gellner: Kids, technology and obesity. What do these three things have to do with one another? I'll talk about kids using technology to help childhood obesity and if it's a good thing or not on today's Scope.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kid Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Childhood obesity is a significant issue, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting 12.7 million children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 years being obese. It's no secret what the long-term effects of obesity are. With how prevalent it is in children, it's even more important to find ways to get kids active and help them take charge of their health. One way adults do this is with fitness and calorie counting devices, like a Fitbit for example. More and more children are starting to use these devices as well.

The primary goal of using technology like these devices is to help children do self-monitoring. It's actually a sneaky way of changing their behavior. Kids are naturally competitive, so by letting them track their activity in the form of number of steps taken or time spent on a certain activity, it encourages them to keep going and meet milestones. Kids get immediate feedback on how they're doing, another aspect that kids love about technology, and finding out how they are doing at any given moment is huge to kids.

Some fitness trackers even make it more fun for kids by giving them examples of how far they've walked, like telling them they've walked the entire length of the Eiffel Tower. It gives them a visual reference that they can understand and help shape healthy behaviors.

Using technology like this also allows parents to have the conversation with kids to emphasize healthy behaviors. Many kids use technology to sit and play video games, but when you use devices or apps which encourage kids to be active, it helps remind them. Think about Pokemon Go for example. It's a video game, but kids have to do a lot of walking to get to poke stops, to get more poke balls, to catch more Pokemon. Kids will walk for 30 minutes or more and not even realize how far they've walked or how much exercise they've gotten.

A lot of parents think that kids get a lot of activity at recess at school, and in some cases that's true, but for other kids they may just be sitting on the ground socializing and not being active at all. Kids need to have fun to keep active. When parents try to increase physical activity for kids, it often backfires. Putting a kid on a treadmill isn't as exciting as encouraging them to go out and play games they really enjoy.

The bottom line here is there are a lot of different technologies out there that can help your child meet their fitness goals and needs. What works for one child may not work for another. The most important thing to remember is to make whatever your child does fun. That's the main way to keep them active.

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