An Ethical Critique of Children’s Activity Trackers
Year of study:
Leading activity tracker brand Fitbit recently released the Fitbit Ace: their activity tracker target at children aged 6+. Fitbit, whilst the most prominent brand in the industry isn’t the only company which has branched out to target a younger consumer with Vtech, Leapfrog and Garmin all offering similar products. These devices use the increasingly popular trend of gamification to incentivise children to reach certain activity milestones in the form of badges and rewards. The purpose of my research is to discuss and critique this new trend from a business ethics point of view, from both utilitarian and virtue ethics perspectives. Firstly, considering some of the arguments largely supporting the use of these technologies to benefit wider society due to their potential to encourage sedentary children to get more physically active, suggesting the devices could contribute to reducing child obesity, a growing concern in western societies. However, my research focuses primarily on delving into some of the more sinister arguments, which are largely left undiscussed in existing academic literature, as to why such technologies could prove ethically problematic and potentially dangerous for children of such a young age. Shouldn’t we be worried that organisations such as Fitbit and consumers are willing to market or purchase new gamified fitness technologies and integrate them into their lives without fully considering the ethical implications of these decisions; especially when this may come at the cost of the happiness, development and wellbeing of young children?