If you are reading this while on public transportation, at a bus stop / train station, look up, and look around. How many people are looking at a mobile device of some kind? 40%? 50%?
Now, how many of those are children? Or if you’re a parent, does your child have a smartphone? A PS3/Xbox? And finally, how much time do you think these kids are spending on those devices?
It’s bad enough that I, a 46 year old ‘technology professional’ spend an inordinate amount of time plugged-in and not exercising, it’s quite another to see a 10 year old who’s overweight and completely disconnected from the world around them.
So, whether you are proponent of the Internet of Things or not, I see it as a perfect opportunity to ensure that children see technology as the privilege it is, and not as an expectation, and certainly not as something to be taken for granted. No child has earned the right to waste away in front of an electronic device, they can do that later if the wish, and once they are out on their own paying their own bills. Like me.
The proposition: With innovations around micro-sensors, geo-location and a whole host of other inputs, it should be relatively trivial to measure the amount of exercise your child is getting on a daily basis, and tie that directly into the amount of ‘play time’ they get on their smartphones or video games. The more exercise they do, the more time they have, and when your time is up, the video games are locked out, and your smartphone reverts to phone only.
You could even build in an ‘management station’ where parents could set tasks, chores, grade requirements etc, and the more the child does, or the better they perform, it all works its way into more time playtime on their electronics. Of course, this will all need to be fun as well, there’s no point in teaching the next generation that exercise is itself a boring chore, but every child has to learn that everything has a price, even if that ‘price’ is something that’s actually good for them.
It would however, be very important not punish a child that finds a way to beat the system. Any creative method they have to ‘cheat’ is an indication of a burgeoning talent. For example, a child who..:
- …gets their friends to wear their sensors to exercise on their behalf shows someone with creativity, influence, and leadership skills.
- …works out how to ‘double up’ on their sensor input shows skills in problem solving, efficiency generation and engineering.
- …hacks the system and re-wires either the input mechanism or the underlying application is going to start the next Google.
While you clearly can’t allow their breaking of the rules to continue, gearing their e-playtime bonuses to rewards for solving similar challenges is a way to make the whole thing not only fun, but a learning lesson as well.
Children are extraordinarily creative when not suppressed by adults, so why not let them have at it while at the same time ensuring that they stay healthy?
Obviously this technology would have just as many benefits to adult health as well, and I have literally dozens other ideas for its application, but I’ll leave that to people with a little more time on their hands. I think a company name of e-PlayTime would work very well…