New app reveals ‘good day’ for kids

ByLance T. Lee

Sep 9, 2022

Not too sporty, not too sleep deprived – finding the “just right” balance in a child’s busy day can be a challenge. But while parents may struggle to do homework amid extracurricular commitments and downtime, a world-first app could provide a much-needed solution.

Developed by the University of South Australia in partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the Healthy-Day app helps parents understand what combination of activities can best help their child’s mental, physical and academic outcomes.

The study found that switching from 60 minutes of screen time to 60 minutes of physical activity led to a 4.2% reduction in body fat, a 2.5% improvement in well-being and an increase school performance by 0.9%.

Lead researcher Dr. Dot Dumuid of UniSA says the app will help parents and healthcare professionals better understand the relationships between time use, health and children’s educational outcomes.

“How children use their time can have a big impact on their health, well-being and productivity,” says Dr. Dumuid.

“We know that screens are not good for the well-being of children, so if they choose to play video games at the expense of sports, it is easy to guess the negative effects on their health.

“This app helps guide healthier behaviors. By tracking a child’s current activities throughout the day and using the app to adjust them, we can model the expected impact of any changes on their physique, well-being and school performance.

“It’s a quick and easy tool that can predict children’s health and wellness outcomes.”

By evaluating 1,685 data records from the Australian Child Health CheckPoint Study (children aged 11-12), the new app allows users to make hypothetical adjustments to time-use behaviors.

It first asks users to enter a child’s current 24-hour time usage across seven categories: sleep, screen time, physical activity, quiet time (like reading or listening to music), transportation passive (such as taking public transport), school-related time (including homework), and domestic/self-care (chores/preparations).

It also includes an advanced option for medical professionals to consider puberty and socioeconomic status. In the next panel (accessible by selecting “Specify reassignments” in the left bar), app users can move the sliders to try out time reassignments of their choice. Expected differences in body fat percentages, psychological health, and academic performance are presented numerically and graphically.

“The Healthy-Day app allows parents, caregivers and healthcare professionals to consider possible changes in a child’s day and predict their impact on health,” says Dr Dumuid.

“I encourage parents to play with it – it may just make you reconsider your child’s screen time in the car, in a coffee shop, waiting for a date…try it and see. It may surprise.”

The Healthy-Day App can be accessed here:

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Material provided by University of South Australia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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