According to a recent article in the NY Post, a group of Long Island students will soon be wearing Polar Active fitness monitors. While the school district hasn’t specified how long the students have to wear the device each day or if participation is voluntary, data collected within the device is uploaded to a computer server by the teacher for tracking purposes and long-term data storage. Similar to the popular fitness tracking device Fitbit, a Polar Active electronic monitor tracks all user movement, time spent sleeping and calories burned throughout the day over a three week period.
Once the data from the device has been uploaded by the teacher, both the administration and the student can log into the Polargofit site with a private username and password. Students can get a better idea of their most active times during each day as well as compare their data to the class average. Administrators can use the data to evaluate the students and offer recommendations for increased activity. One New Jersey school district has even been using the data to partly influence grades in physical education classes.
Both parents and privacy advocates have displayed concern for this new electronic tracking program. Parents are worried that schools won’t be requesting permission from them in regards to wearing the device. In a St. Louis school district where the electronic monitors have been implemented, a mother of a fourth-grader claimed that her son’s elementary school monitored the child without her knowledge and expressed worry over what’s going to happen to that data.
Privacy and civil liberties advocates have stressed that this type of program should only be voluntary rather than a required part of a school’s physical education curriculum. Other concerns include how the data will be transferred between different schools, policies on enforcing drug therapy regimens based on an analysis of the data and if insurance companies will be able to gain access to the data when dealing with future claims regarding the child.