It’s a sad fact that Americans aren’t getting any healthier. So it’s not really a surprise that Fitbit has created the Ace, a kids’ activity tracker that could help parents combat childhood obesity. That said, the idea that parents should be injecting one more gadget into their kids’ lives still seems a bit weird.
Designed for children ages eight and up, Fitbit’s first activity tracker for kids (which seems to just be a revamped Fitbit Alta) looks to solve both the issue of the shitty security you get in most kid-friendly wearables, while also giving parents a tool to help keep track of their children’s exercise.
On the security front, the Ace was created to be compliant with COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and other laws to ensure that strangers can’t hijack the device’s data, while also preventing kids from befriending the wrong people and avoiding data overload by limiting what kind of info children can see.
This all seems pretty nice, and with a splash-proof body and a claimed five days of battery life, the Ace seems like it should be able to withstand the kind of pounding children will likely give it. However, I’ve still got to wonder if this thing won’t push things too far in the other direction, giving helicopter parents just one more way to be even more overbearing while also making kids even more absorbed in tech.
Fitbit says the Ace can be programmed to remind children to rack up 250 steps every hour. But what happens when that reminder pops up while kids are at school? Or what about kids so focused on completing step challenges that they inadvertently walk too far away from home?
Even Fitbit seems to tacitly acknowledge the Ace’s potential for misuse, because while the device can track steps, it won’t calculate calories burned. Look, I’m not saying tech can’t have a role in keeping kids healthy, but there’s something about the idea of tracking your kids in such a heavy-handed way that just doesn’t sit right.
My colleague Alex Cranz has already talked about how buying a Fitbit for a loved one could be a big mistake. Buying one for a kid might be even worse.
But if you are a believer and willing to experiment on your kids, the Fitbit Ace is available now to preorder $100 in blue or purple. Fitbit’s site says it’ll ship to customers “in late May.”