Local school bans Fitbits to prevent negative body image behaviour

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Update

There has been a new story about this on the Guardian which does change the context though I’m not sure it changes my original opinion completely.

Original post

This is just a quick rant about this story of one of our local schools, Stroud High, banning phones and Fitbits over fears about body image issues. You can read about it on the Guardian.

There are multiple problems with this whole story and, given high technology isn’t going to go away from any child’s future life, banning the technology now is the worst possible response.

Data driving harmful behaviour

Yes, this will happen. It probably is happening at the school now and they are right to highlight it.

However, it’s always happened. The changes are in the level of data tracking increasing and how that detail is presented in real time now.

That change gives a sense of acceleration that people, adults especially, find uncomfortable (yet has been happening for centuries with different innovations).

Data enabling bad behaviour happens. How do we live healthy lives with that data is a good question. It’s something a school is very well placed to confront and discuss.

Is a ban going to work?

Well, no.

On at least two levels, it can’t:-

  • Children just go back to the weighing scales at home. The negative behaviour remains but is back at home, in private, hidden.
  • The technology is so small, it can be concealed but now the child knows to keep it secret. The behaviour is kept secret and the guilt and shame is heightened. The possibility of sharing and finding a way to positive behaviour is lost.

The school needs to confront how living in a technological world with additional data layers works. The data trails created are artefacts that could be used to confront bad behaviour and support change.

Banning technology is no education that will help children live their lives. Making kids afraid of data and their use of technology is in no way helpful to their wellbeing.

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