Most parents worry mobile health apps harmful for tweens

Of the parents surveyed, 32% said they would refuse to allow their child to use applications that provide health advice or monitoring.

MICHIGAN: A US survey has revealed that 72% of parents are concerned that the use of mobile health apps may lead tweens to overly focus on their weight and body image.

E-health applications for smartphones that count your steps, monitor your body weight, measure your heart rate and evaluate the quality of sleep, etc. are increasingly popular in the United States, where they are widely used by teenagers and adults.

But what impact do they have on younger children and what do their parents think?

A national child health survey conducted by the C S Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan questioned 832 American parents on the possible negative effects of these applications on children aged from eight to 12 years old.

While nearly 50% of the parents said they themselves had already used a health application, only one in 20 said their child was using a health application, the survey reported.

Of the parents surveyed, 32% said they would refuse to allow their child to use applications that provide health advice or monitoring.

Two out of three parents were particularly concerned about advertisements with inappropriate content (alcohol, sexual activities) that might target their children.

Three out of four were also concerned that nutrition-related applications, such as those offering calorie counting, might lead children to be overly concerned about their body image.

“Tweens look up to older teens and often want to view content designed for an older age group. It’s up to parents to look for information that indicates whether a health app is targeted specifically to younger children,” points out Sarah Clark, a researcher at the University of Michigan who directed the survey.

Clark also advises parents to talk to their children before they start to use applications.

“Parents should encourage their tween to talk about why they’re interested in tracking their food or calorie intake, and talk with them about healthy ways to use this information,” recommends the researcher.