The Future of Kids’ Wearables: More Than Just Tracking Devices
Kiddo | CJ Swamy
Develop Healthy Adults
The proliferation of screen time has gone hand in hand with stasis. More screen time means less movement, which increases the risk of obesity. According to National Survey Statistics, close to 72% of kids in the US do not even get 20 minutes of rigorous activity per day. In children, the threat is far greater than weight gain alone. The real concern is developing unhealthy habits, set to accompany them through to adulthood. Child wearables playfully incentivize wellness, in a bid to develop long-term, sustainable healthy habits. And it’s more than just exercise. Wearables for children can incentivize drinking water, brushing teeth, sleeping well and healthy eating. Such early intervention is proven to be effective. The World Health Organization commissioned a study proving that health and wellbeing management in early and middle childhood can reduce occurrences of critical illnesses in adulthood.
Reduce Cost of Childcare
In a world of connected devices, a future where a kid’s wearable is connected to the parents, school, insurance companies, doctors, hospitals and brands is closer than we might think. In such a connected world, anyone involved in caring for a child has access to vital information about the child’s wellbeing. This means that the cost of childcare can reduce significantly, and parents have very real incentives to make adjustments to their child’s behavior. As any behavioral economist will tell you, incentives are a strong first step to lasting change. CEO of Goodparents LLC, makers of the kids wearable band Kiddo, CJ Swamy says,
“Children’s health metrics are at worse levels than they have ever been. We need to do something about this. We’re trying to use technology to better our children’s lives.”
Attune Parents & Validate Their Hunches
One perennial problem of parenting is recognizing patterns of behavior in their children. In this ongoing battle, as soon as patterns are identified, another one develops in its place. Identification of problems in the absence of data is a time intensive, and often nebulous endeavor. Parents are hungry for data to validate their parental hunches and intuition. Wearables offer parents the chance to recognize unhealthy behavior patterns and address them before they become systemic. Swamy says, “Close to 70% of kids show negative behaviors of stress and only 20% of parents can recognize the signs”. The peace of mind that comes from knowing someone else is helping to watch your child, and monitor their health indicators, is tremendous. “Knowing if something might be wrong or needs to be addressed is half the battle. This leads to simple actions that parents can then take”.
Tracking More & Meaningful Indicators
The way a kid moves, behaves, acts and sleeps is very different to that of an adult. Effective kids’ wearables have to be built from the bottom up; not merely re-appropriate technology designed for adults. This means algorithms must be configured specifically for children and monitor more inputs than just movement and heart rate. Swamy says, “For a child, temperature and perspiration are also vital bio-signs. So being able to triangulate data with multi sensors is important”. The more inputs, the less ambiguous the data becomes. And the more overall data collected and shared, the easier it becomes to recognize patterns and intervene before they become problems.
Make It Fun
Adult wearables serve up statistics that motivate adults in the form of step count, mileage and heart rate. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t motivating for a kid. To motivate kids, play has to be front and center. Kiddo focuses on rewarding good behavior through play and fun. The levels of ‘playfication’ are multiple and unearthed in the child’s own time. Kids can even make music together through playing air guitar. The focus is on letting kids be kids, not teaching them to track themselves. And as wearables becoming increasingly integrated with VR, their education potential is enhanced. Suddenly, kids’ wearables will be capable of doing more than just tracking and suggesting actions, but inviting kids to learn, discover and experience the suggested action. Behavioral change that is experienced, not just taught, stands the greatest chance of being sustainable and lasting.
Depending on its use, any tool can be a tool of empowerment or destruction. By focusing on the negative implications of child’s wearables, we inhibit their potential to truly transform child health and the broader ecosystem in both the short and long term. Any technology will have its supporters and detractors, especially in its infantile stage, but by recognizing the potential pitfalls and choosing to strengthen the bright spots, we collectively give the technology a chance to become all it should.