Having fun while being active is more important for kids than counting steps, experts say.
Having fun while being active is more important for kids than counting steps, experts say.

Why fitness tracker is not healthiest option for kids

NEW fitness trackers targeted at children have come under fire from eating disorder experts for encouraging "diet culture" and putting excessive pressure on kids to lose weight.

Tech giants Garmin this week launched "activity trackers" which monitor children's daily steps and allow them to set "activity goals" and compete against their friends.

children need to move their bodies in ways that interest them.
children need to move their bodies in ways that interest them.

The bands are aimed at kids as young as four and feature popular cartoon characters.

Target Australia are also ­advertising "activity trackers" for kids aged eight and older.

Eating disorder therapist Sarah Harry, director of Body Positive Australia, told The Daily Telegraph she was concerned the kids' exercise trackers could trigger obsessive behaviour in young children.

A Disney themed fitness tracker.
A Disney themed fitness tracker.

Ms Harry said an obsession with counting steps and exercise was a common marker of eating disorders.

"Every single one of my ­clients with an eating disorder has something strapped to their wrists because they are constantly counting," Ms Harry said.

"Kids don't need to be counting. It's part of diet culture and it makes it not about fun but about numbers."

Parents should encourage their children to enjoy using their bodies.
Parents should encourage their children to enjoy using their bodies.

Ms Harry said while there were some very "well meaning" parents who had bought their children fitbits, the trackers sent the message that fitness was about weight loss.

"It puts kids in the mindset they need to compete and compare themselves when it comes to their weight and exercise … we don't want to see children on treadmills trying to make up their steps," she said.

Experts believe trackers can trigger unhealthy obsessions.
Experts believe trackers can trigger unhealthy obsessions.

"The fact they are using children's characters to sell (the trackers) is particularly disturbing."

Christine Morgan, director of Australia's biggest eating disorder charity Butterfly Foundation, was also concerned.

"We should be encouraging our children to move their bodies for enjoyment and in ways that interest them," Ms Morgan said.

Children need a variety of physical activities, in addition to walking.
Children need a variety of physical activities, in addition to walking.

"Tracking steps, calories and weight may result in an ­unhealthy relationship with ­exercise and food for both adults and children."

AMA NSW President Dr Kean-Seng Lim said while ­encouraging kids to exercise was a positive thing, it was best if children did a variety of exercise - not just walking.

"I think concerns about fixating on one measurement are valid and it (the trackers) might not tell the whole story of fitness," Dr Lim said.

"We know children in particular benefit when they are doing a range of different exercises like throwing balls and different sports."

Butterfly helpline: 1800 33 4673