Get Your Kids Moving With Help From Technology
Living in an
increasingly technological world, more and more kids and teens are living predominantly
sedentary lives glued to computers, video games, tv, and cell phones. But it’s
this same technology that one Silicone Valley company is using to motivate kids
and teens to get off the couch and get moving.
Zamzee is an online platform for kids and teens, where points are
awarded based on their daily activity levels. The Zamzee activity meter tracks and measures
a child’s physical activity level throughout the day, which can then be
uploaded online for points that can be used towards gift cards from top
retailers and other prizes.
We talked with the
director of marketing and communications, Richard Tate, to learn more about Zamzee
and how it works.
Can you tell us more about Zamzee’s
Zamzee’s mission is to get tweens and
families to be more physically active.
Studies show that the physical activity of kids drops precipitously
between the ages of 9 and 15. Our goal
is to stop that drop-off and to help make physical activity a part of daily
Where did the original concept come
concept for Zamzee is a mashup of concepts from HopeLab’s Ruckus Nation idea competition and an
internal project called gDitty. Once the
idea was formed, Hopelab began rigorous research, refining key details of the
experience (this work was supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation). Over 350 participants,
across six separate studies, recorded 10,000 days of user activity – all in an
effort to maximize engagement and increase physical activity. The research showed that, on average, Zamzee boosted
activity in kids by more than 30% - that’s equivalent to nearly an extra
marathon a month of running!
Once Hopelab knew
that Zamzee had real impact, they began to explore different ways to make sure
Zamzee reached as many kids as possible.
In 2010, Hopelab chose to launch Zamzee as an independent social
enterprise with the goal of creating a sustainable business that delivers on
Zamzee’s social mission to get kids and families moving more. Initial funding for Zamzee has been provided
by Hopelab, and Zamzee is seeking additional partners to support our work.
Can you tell us more about what Zamzee
is and how it is used?
The Zamzee experience has two main parts –
the Zamzee meter and our website at zamzee.com.
The Zamzee meter is specifically designed to measure the
start-and-stop physical activity of kids, tweens and teens. You can clip your Zamzee to your pants or
belt or just wear it in your pocket.
It’s about the size of a pack of gum and weighs less than one ounce. After a day of moving around, you plug your
Zamzee into your computer and upload your activity data.
The second part of
the experience is at zamzee.com. We have worked hard through the development
process to devise a site that motivates users to keep moving. This is where all that movement turns into
points – and its points that power the online experience. You can track your progress on the activity
graph, level up and earn badges, check yourself out on the leaderboard and turn
your physical activity into rewards you choose from the Zamzee shops, like gift
cards or even an XBox. Once you’ve
purchased a Zamzee meter ($29.95), the experience at zamzee.com is free, but there
are optional ways for parents to put money into their kids’ accounts that will
enable their kids to earn prizes more quickly.
What are some of the largest obstacles
you see in getting kids and teens off the couch and moving more?
Many changes in our
culture today have restricted the amount of physical activity kids get to
experience in a day. More kids drive or
take the bus to school than in the past, PE classes have been cut dramatically
from school’s budgets, and many kids live in neighborhoods where unsupervised
outdoor play is just not an option. Michelle Obama, through Let’s
Move!, speaks to many of the trends in the last 30 years that have led to
alarming rates of sedentary behavior and obesity in our young people.
Kids are also
increasingly raised with technology as a source of entertainment and social
connection. Zamzee uses this engagement
with technology as a force for good – technology that gets kids and families up
and moving and enjoying physical activity as part of their daily lives.
What are some of Zamzee’s fun features
that helps get kids moving?
The Zamzee website
is filled with safe and social features that keep tweens and teens engaged and
moving. An activity graph displays your
progress by day, week, or even by minute.
Best of all, Zamzee rewards you for improving as well as moving – you
get bonus points if you beat your average activity level each day. You also can decorate your avatar, level up,
and earn badges for all sorts of accomplishments, like connecting and uploading
activity data several days in a row.
One of our most
popular features is Whamz – this is like a kid-friendly version of
tweeting. Users combine fun activities with
ridiculous scenarios from different drop down menus to brag about how they earn
their Pointz – like Playing Soccer with Zombies, or Frisbee in the Clouds.
Users can also
take one of our free challenges that ask kids to move a certain amount in a set
amount of time (i.e. earn 20 points in 15 minutes) – and if they succeed they
earn Zamz. Zamz is our online currency
you use to buy rewards.
challenges, kids can turn all of their movement into rewards. Our Zamzee Shops are filled with a wide range
of popular items that tweens and teens love.
We have gift cards from top fashion brands, popular video game titles,
and even top-tier consumer electronics, like iPod Nanos, Xboxes or Nintendo
Since its creation, what kind of statistics
do you have on Zamzee’s effectiveness?
Tweens have spent
over 10,000 days testing and helping to design Zamzee. The results? Zamzee users move +30% more than non-Zamzee
users! As mentioned, that's the same as
an extra marathon per month! There are already about 5,000 registered Zamzee users. Zamzee is also in pilot programs in schools
and community centers in Atlanta, Chicago, Honolulu, and the San Francisco Bay
Why are tools like Zamzee, and other
gamification technologies, effective in improving people’s health?
Tools that employ
gaming techniques have shown to be great ways to get and to keep users
engaged. It’s exciting to see this
innovation channeled towards positive change, such as increasing physical
activity in tweens and teens.
What’s next for Zamzee?
currently in beta, and we plan to officially launch this fall. In addition, Hopelab, which also partners
with Zamzee in ongoing research, will be announcing preliminary research
findings of a six-month impact study on the impact of Zamzee in physical
activity and kids’ health.
To learn more about Zamzee and to purchase Zamzee activity meters for your family, please visit Zamzee.com.
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