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Cassie Slane Headshot

Will Strapping Fitness Trackers On Our Kids Help America's Childhood Obesity Problem?

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If we are already monitoring our kids' every move on the Internet and reading their texts and posts on Facebook, couldn't we also strap a fitness gadget to them to see what kind of activities they are doing during the day to help them fight obesity?

I just reviewed the latest fitness gadgets on Fox, and they are quite informative. Mom's could easily attach them to their kid's belt loop and have complete knowledge of how much their child walked, ran up stairs or was sedentary throughout the day. Parents could then log what their child ate and have a computer readout on why their child may be having trouble maintaining a healthy weight.

This is crazy talk, right? Not really. One company is betting that parents will embrace it. A company called GeoPalz makes an activity tracker just for kids called the ibitz PowerKey that works with a mobile app. The $50 pedometer, available on its website now and retail stores in April, counts steps that can be collected and then cashed in for games, apps, shows or custom prizes through Amazon.com.

The product couldn't be more timely, as childhood obesity rates in America have tripled over the past three decades and today, nearly one in three children ages two-19 are overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association. If the numbers don't decline, one-third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma.

The question is, will parents use the device in the right way? I think tracking a child's activity through the day could be a slippery slope when it comes to a child's self-esteem. Imagine a parent telling junior that he needs to do a couple of laps around the house to balance out the pizza he ate for lunch because he didn't take enough steps during the day. Or the mom who tells her daughter that if she wants to get a field hockey scholarship to Stanford, she better hustle more in practice because her numbers weren't as good on her tracker as last week's.

However, a kid's activity tracker could have some benefits if it is used in the right way for the right child. There is evidence that integrating fitness gadgets into your lifestyle can help you lose weight. A year-long study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that the volunteers who used a mobile app and attended nutritional classes lost an average of 15 pounds. The group who tracked their diets by hand without any support barely lost any.

I am sure there are plenty of kids that could benefit from the help of an encouraging app and activity tracker, many of whom may not be learning how to eat well and stay physically fit from their parents or school. GeoPalz offers tips on the app about calories in typical fast food meals and how many steps it takes to walk off, such as "Did you know a Chili and Cheese Large French Fry from A&W has 400 calories and takes 8,000 steps to walk off?" Maybe that will help a child or teen think twice before eating a double cheeseburger and fries.

Will a child activity tracker create more problems than solutions for a family? If parents use it with their kids as a family goal, it could be beneficial for everyone to stay fit. But is monitoring our children's activity during the day the best way to keep them fit? Isn't it a little bit obsessive or overbearing? Is an app going to help them make smart choices about what they eat? Kids may rebel that their parents are tracking their every move during the day (just the like the college girl that got a restraining order from her helicopter parents). Then again, with so many kids focused on their smartphones and iPod touches, it may be the only way to get into their heads. Need to track your child's activity through the day? There's an app for that!