5 apps for your family’s health

There’s no doubt about it – we live in an age where our children’s days (and nights!) are dominated by technology. The level of their daily media “consumption” is justifiably a top concern for parents, teachers and pediatricians.

Digital media has the potential to interfere with just about all that we, as parents, hold dear –  our children’s safety, their schoolwork, exercise, reading, eating and sleeping habits. But I thought I’d share some of the positive influence digital technology can have on your family’s well being.

Having just returned from the Fourth Annual mHealth Summit – focused on the intersect of health and technology – I can assure you that there is, in fact, an upside. I am more convinced than ever that if mobile or digital health isn’t yet on your radar, much less your smartphone, it should and soon will be.

According to Mashable, there are now more than 40,000 health and fitness apps available. I’ve selected a few to share with you, including a couple that have even earned a place on my own smartphone.

Text4baby: With nearly half a million subscribers, this free national text messaging campaign is for anyone who is expecting or in their first year of parenthood. To sign up, text “BABY” (“BEBE” if you want the Spanish version) to 511411. Enter your baby’s due date or birthday, and voila! You’ll receive three health-related text messages a week. I participated in the creation of the actual text messages, and I can attest to the fact that they contain the most important, credible information relevant to each stage of your pregnancy or baby’s first year.

FitBit: FitBit takes the basic concept of a pedometer to a new (albeit more expensive) level. The “Zip” device measure steps, miles, calories burned, stairs climbed and more. FitBit has also created a scale and sleep monitor (purchased separately from the Zip). The program incorporates fun and motivating technology in the form of an app, Bluetooth connectivity and website where you can log daily accomplishments and challenge others. I considered myself fairly fit when my 11-year-old son and I committed to wearing our FitBit device, but the program seriously motivated us to step up our day-to-day exercise. Just check out some of my tweets over the past year and you’ll see that I was encouraged to walk to the grocery store, forego the train in the Atlanta airport and jump on the treadmill before bedtime – just to name a few!

Zamzee: Zamzee has dubbed itself, “A game that gets kids moving.” By using the “Zamzee meter” (a $29.95 accelerometer) and a kid-safe website for tweens and teens, this company’s goal is to get kids and families moving – one step, avatar, badge and goal at a time.

Unified Lifestyle restaurant nutrition app: This free app may change the way you order and eat at restaurants. Despite being occasionally mocked by less tech- or health-conscious friends and family, I still make it a point to pull out my iPhone and use this app to assess the nutritional details for any of the 60,000+ restaurant meals it includes.

Band-Aid Magic Vision: What happens when augmented reality is applied to a childhood staple? Hold up your iPhone to your child’s Band-Aid and watch Kermit the frog come to life and sing with this free app. My kids are long past the age in believing that Band-Aids heal all ailments, but my parenting and pediatric instincts tell me that this app is likely to have great appeal for tech-savvy parents and Band-Aid-loving preschoolers alike. Note: App only works with Muppets Band-Aids.