• Children today spend less and less time outdoors engaging in healthy physical activity, compared to just a few years ago, and more and more time indoors, sedentary, and exposed to a number of screens: cell phones, iPods, tablets, computers, and televisions. The negative health consequences of these habits are already evident, and will likely worsen over time. But while many parents might perceive screen-technology as an obstacle to improving their child's fitness, recent studies have shown that a new generation of mobile games can actually be a very effective tool at motivating higher physical activity amongst kids while also increasing parental engagement. They use the appeal of mobile games and apps to encourage children ages 3 to 9 (dubbed “touchscreen natives”) out to the playground, along with a parent who holds the device.
• At the connected playground, movement, activities and goals earn the children their sought after rewards of badges, avatars, etc. Not only are the parents and children engaged in play, but also the aggregate data collected (exceeding online safety and privacy guidelines for children) helps inform landscape architects, playground designers, planners, multi-family housing owners, funders, and municipalities about what equipment is used, how it is used, and when it is used. This data can lead to the funding, design, and construction of highly utilized, highly effective playgrounds, as well as creating parent/child time and a healthier younger generation. To enhance and encourage investments in future connected playgrounds, the data has the ability to track the ROI of playground expenditures.
Parks & Recreation
Health, Safety and Welfare
1. Describe the decline in child physical activity over the past few decades, the reasons for it, and the consequences.
2. Identify a new generation of mobile game apps and connected playgrounds that drive children outdoors, increasing physical activity and engaging parents in playground activities.
3. Discuss the health benefits of connected playground activity for both children and their parents.
4. Define how playground owners and operators can use aggregate data on usage patterns of connected playgrounds to formulate programs, set budgets, apply for grants, and get community engagement.
5. Discuss a potential case study of playgrounds that are Internet and app driven, and collecting data to help in municipal planning and fundraising for playgrounds.