The following may contain some views that some readers may find deeply patronising and potentially insulting. If you are allergic to such views, then head on over here instead…
First up, apologies for the expletive. But I feel it’s warranted. Here’s some blurb from the marketing boys at Garmin, to give you an idea why my Friday morning has taken a turn:
“vívofit jr. 2 isn’t just a fitness tracker for kids. It’s an interactive experience where activity unlocks adventure. The swim-friendly band features a Marvel Spider-Man design and 1+ year battery life — no recharging necessary. While kids travel across different dimensions of the Spider-Verse to hunt the Green Goblin, parents can use the app to monitor activity, manage and assign chores, and even give rewards.”
This came in to the mailbox from Garmin. I’m a user of their products. I have a second-hand Forerunner 610. It’s grand. It does the job… most of the time. It reminds me of my dear old lovable Cocker Spaniel, Holly. They are both getting on a bit. Both inclined to be cranky and ignore your instructions. Both shit themselves the odd time. It’s all part of the ageing process. You just have to live with it.
But a fitness tracker for kids? That’s a truly awful idea. For a start, the marketing blurb should make you feel a little queasy. But the real creepy side is the idea that parents could, should and would monitor their kids activities (and in turn assign chores and give rewards).
It’s an emotive issue. In this day and age, it’s easy to throw out an argument that a tracker on your child would make them easier to find if they were abducted (though I cannot say if this works on such a device; typically, GPS needs to be enabled by the user, and then uploaded. Most of these fitness devices work on motion rather than GPS; 3-axis accelerometers, if you want to delve into the science of it. The rest, such as calories, etc. is all guess work).
In fairness to Garmin, they are not pressing the panic button on child abduction. That’s my mischief. They are pressing the big, fat diabetes button instead. This whole gig is aimed at encouraging little nippers to get out there and do something physical. And if you can strap one of these bad boys to your wrist, so much the better. Mind you, I’m amazed in this day and age of sensitivity around gender tropes that they have gone full monty on the colour schemes: it’s classic Disney Princess pink for the girls, and black and red Spider-Man for the boys (plus Star Wars too). No doubt there will be some Twitter backlash on that one. Good luck, boys and girls of the marketing department. You asked for it!
Setting aside the questionable colour faux-pas (‘coz we all know girls are colour-blind and can only see in pink and some shades of lilac), do you really think wearing a watch (at 90 euro, by the way) is going to make any difference? Do kids even wear watches anyway? Even with the draw of Disney and Marvel?
Here’s the rub. Here’s what I really think, for what it’s worth.
If your child is one of those kids that likes climbing trees, kicking a ball or skateboarding (and any other number of activities), you have probably got little to worry about. Well, apart from mortgages, taxes, serious illness, disease and death. And why Boris Johnson is such a fuckwit. Brextit, as I call him.
If you’re child isn’t one of these, well, that’s actually okay too. Neither of our two were into sports. But then again, neither of them are overweight either. If your kids are overweight and in need of exercise, then the fault lies with you, dear parent. Roald Dahl has said this better of course, and his masterwork Charlie and the Chocolate Factory contains several stern warnings to prospective parents and their offspring about what will await and befall them if they don’t get their shit together.
Check out this site for all the fantastic Oompa-Lompa songs. It’s not just Augustus Gloop; the whole damn lot of them were rotten. Except Charlie, of course. Over the top? Well, yes. Dahl was making a deliciously savage point with humour as his weapon, and with all great humour there is a line between truth and fiction. Just like Wonka, Dahl’s creation, the author was able to blend and craft amazing flavours for your delight and delectation. His central point, though, was that a rotten child became rotten at the hands of the parents. For my money, Dahl’s best book was Danny The Champion of the World, but that’s another story for another day.
Kids will be kids. They need to be allowed to be kids. Monitoring their activity is creepy, in the same way as reading someone’s personal diary is creepy. Do you really know what your kids are up to, 24-7? I doubt it. I hope not.
Here’s a clue. Much the same shit as you got up to. Did you want your parents knowing all about this? No chance.
Encourage your kids to find an activity they like. Not all youngsters like organised sport, like GAA, football, rugby, etc. Some just like noodling on their bike. Or dancing. Or maybe goofing around at a climbing wall. Or climbing trees. We managed to climb things when we were kids that cost nothing to climb, and without a safety harness 😉
Maybe some profess to not liking anything at all. But if you are content to take the easy option of allowing the TV or computer monitor to parent your child, then don’t be surprised by a seeming lack of enthusiasm from them in return when you spring the annual family hike or camping session on them. (Ironically, these days, it’s more common to find the middle-aged Dads out doing triathlons whilst their kids lounge at home… yeah… recognise anyone there?)
I know parenting these days can be tricky. There’s a lot going on. And little Seanie arrived without a manual. And there’s no warranty or customer service number (unless you count Sean’s granny, which actually is a lot better than any customer service number). But all of us need some nurturing. And that starts at the start. And that means taking your little ‘uns for walks when they can barely walk themselves. Kicking leaves. Collecting conkers. Chucking sticks. Then getting carried home, tired and emotional.
It means climbing trees and falling out of them. It means trips to the A&E with broken bones. It means teaching them to ride a bike without stabilisers. It means setting them free to explore a world of possibilities (some of which would make your balls shrivel up if you could see that far into the future).
But I draw the line at fitness devices for kids.
If your child is already active, they don’t need one. If they are not, that’s your fault, dear parent, and no amount of devices and apps is going to get their arse off the couch. That’s not Garmin’s job.
Here are two great tunes for the weekend, themed for the post above:
Brick in the wall, by Pink Floyd
Jesus Wept, by Ralph McTell. I’m not a card-carrying atheist, but I have no faith in any religion. However, this is a cracking tune.