Ethical issues concerning the use of commercially available wearables in children

Informed consent, living in the spotlight, and the right to an open future



Wearable and mobile technology has advanced in leaps and bounds in the last decade with technological advances creating a role from enhancing healthy living to monitoring and treating disease. However, the discussion about the ethical use of such commercial technology in the community, especially in minors, is lacking behind. In this paper, we first summarize the major ethical concerns that arise from the usage of commercially available wearable technology in children, with a focus on smart watches, highlighting issues around the consent process, mitigation of risk and potential confidentiality and privacy issues, as well as the potential for therapeutic misconceptions when used without medical advice. Then through a relevant thought experiment we move on to outline some further ethical concerns that are connected to the use of wearables by minors, to wit the issue of informed consent in the case of minors, forcing them to live in the spotlight, and compromising their right to an open future. We conclude with the view that mitigating potential pitfalls and enhancing the benefits of wearable technology especially for minors requires brave and comprehensive moral debates.
Keywords: wearable devices, ethics, children, privacy, large data, informed consent, right to an open future, living in the spotlight.

Author Biography

Evangelos D. Protopapadakis, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

I was born in Athens in 1972. I studied philosophy, pedagogy and psychology at the University of Athens, wherefrom I obtained my B.Phil in 1997. I completed my PhD Thesis in 2002 (“The Idea of Euthanasia in Contemporary Bioethics”) under the supervision of Prof. T. N. Pelegrinis. I have been teaching at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens since 2004 (first as appointed and then as adjunct lecturer). In 2009 I became a Lecturer in Applied Ethics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (School of Philosophy / Faculty of Philosophy, Pedagogy, Psychology / Department of Philosophy), and in 2014 I was elected an Assistant Professor in the same field. Since 2015 I am the Director of the NKUA Applied Philosophy Research Laboratory and the Head of the Greek Unit of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics (Haifa). I am also a board member of the NKUA Ethics and Deontology Committee and the Hellenic Pasteur Institute Bioethics Committee. I have authored four books in Greek, edited one in English, co-edited four in Greek, three in English and one in Serbian. See more info about me at