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article imageNY students to wear electronic monitors in anti-obesity drive

By Cynthia Trowbridge     Jan 17, 2012 in World
New York - A group of students from Bay Shore, New York, will be wearing electronic monitors so school officials can track their physical activity around the clock.
The athletics chair for the Bay Shore schools has ordered 10 Polar Active monitors to use starting in the spring. The cost for each monitor is $90. The devices are worn on the wrist and count heartbeats, they detect motion and will even track students sleeping schedules. The idea behind the use of the monitors is to help fight obesity.
The information from the monitor is displayed on a color-coded screen and is transmitted to a password-protected website that students and educators will be able to access.
The monitors are being used in school districts in St. Louis, Missouri and in South Orange, N.J. reports Bay Shore athletics chairman Ted Nagengast said, "It's a great reinforcement in fighting the obesity epidemic. It tells kids, in real time, 'Am I active? Am I not active?' We want to give kids the opportunity to become active."
There are those who are concerned about the privacy of the devices
One parent in St. Louis said the monitors were being used without her consent or knowledge. The concerns about the electronic devises is how how secure the website is and where the data might could end up.
Jay Stanley, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “When you get into monitoring people’s biological vital signs, that’s a pretty intrusive measurement. There are key privacy interests at play.” reports the
Stanley said the parents must have a say in how long the data will be stored and who will have access to it. He said the schools also must obtain parents’ consent.
Stanley added,“A program like this should only be voluntary. Nobody should be forced to reveal biological indicators."
Virginia Rezmierski, an expert on information technology and privacy at the University of Michigan said , “It’s all about secondary use. Does the data pass along with the child from school to school? When will insurance companies want to get access to it? Will a school want to medicate a child that the monitor identifies as hyperactive? It’s potentially very dangerous ground.”
In July 17.1 per cent of the children in New York were considered officially obese, with the state ranking as the 16th worst state in the U.S. for childhood obesity. asks Two Big Questions:
First, what do you think about school districts stepping in to monitor the health of their students in this way?
Or, to put it another way, given that one third of kids in the U.S. are overweight or obese, shouldn’t we be thankful that someone is watching out for our kids?
More about Students, electronic monitors, Physical activity