The Future of Digital Health Technology for Kids

Father and son using digital tablet
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Kids now grow up using mobile technologies, so digital health is not shying away from reaching out to the younger generation. Children tend to be a very open-minded audience, able to absorb useful information presented to them in compelling, innovative ways. Digital health strategies can engage them and help them develop healthy habits while habits are still forming. However, since this is a vulnerable and impressionable population, safety standards need to be considered, and parental support and involvement is beneficial.

Promoting Kids’ Health and Wellness

Some technologies and gadgets aimed at kids are adaptations of adult versions. For example, the Withings’ Smart Kid Scale was developed following the success of their smart weight scale for adults. The kid’s version establishes a reliable growth chart that gives parents information on their child’s growth and development simply by checking their smartphone.

Other health inventions allow children to more actively participate in the measuring and analyzing their own health, while at the same time enabling the sharing of their health information with parents. Kids can now measure their weight, activity levels and some parameters connected with certain chronic diseases. For instance, Ayogo’s Monster Manor App is a free game that encourages kids with type 1 diabetes to check their blood sugar regularly and helps them manage their disease better.

Since young children often suffer from food allergies and intolerances, so a device that would help them test their food for allergens might prove to be very useful.

A UCLA research team has developed a way to examine food using a personalized food-testing platform on a cell phone. The lightweight device attaches to a common cell phone and offers the same accuracy as laboratory tests.

Fighting Childhood Obesity

Finding ways to curb the childhood obesity epidemic has become an important societal focus, and also a viable niche market for companies promoting digital health solutions and self-tracking technologies.

Many health educational games use play to attract children’s attention and help them change unhealthy habits. One such game is Smash Your Food (from Food N’ Me). The app raises awareness of the nutritional and caloric value of different foods by letting kids guess the numbers and then smash their chosen food items in a compressor to check the real values.

Getting youngsters to move more is another goal of initiatives for preventing obesity. Elements of gamification and competition are used to make kids physically more active and choose active leisure time pursuits. GeoPalz, for example, launched an activity tracker that allows children to collect points as they walk, run and jump. Collected points can get exchanged for different rewards, motivating the young person to be as active as possible.

Sqord is a digital health platform for kids that applies friendly competition. Partnered with Gear up & Go!, the Sqord product includes a wrist-worn tracker (the PowerPod) that records the duration and intensity of movement.

The product then translates activity into points and allows for comparison with other kids. The PowerPod device is designed to be robust and waterproof, so it can endure the more energetic play kids are likely to engage in.

Privacy Concerns Need to be Carefully Addressed

Health technology aimed at minors needs to be careful about protecting its users and be compliant with the legislation that applies in this field. Legislation such as COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), CIPA (the Children Internet Protection Act) and COPA (Child Online Protection Act) should all be reviewed before innovating consumer digital health devices for minors.

Companies in this space are addressing safety concerns by either providing user anonymity or limiting data access. For instance, before a child receives their Sqord’s PowerPod, they need to return a permission slip from their parents. On the Sqord’s platform, kids can interact only with peers they already know, minimizing possible risks. For the same reason, GeoPalz limits the access to personal data to only the child’s family. Another solution was also developed by HopeLab’s Zamzee — an activity meter and motivational website for youth — that gives its young users anonymity by making them use profiles with anonymous, imaginary names.

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