The Digitalized Baby: Is Technology Making Us Bad Parents?
The digitalization of babies has gone into overdrive in the past two years, with high-tech gadgetry that syncs up to parents' iPhones and video systems that track the most minute details of children's movement. But has it gone too far?
When I brought my first son home from the hospital, I was a nervous wreck. I’d read all the studies on SIDS, every statistic and safety precaution. There was nothing fluffy in or near his crib, which had adequate spacing between the slats and a perfectly-tilted mattress. And yet, I couldn’t unwind. Friends would tell me to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Instead, I’d hover blearily over him, stressing over every up and down movement of his tiny chest. I’d finally drift off only to startle awake with horrific, nightmarish visions in my head.
Enter the Angelcare Deluxe Movement Monitor. A concerned coworker finally suggested this advanced device to measure my son’s breathing at night. My husband looked on, bemused, as I slipped a hyper-sensitive sensor pad under the baby’s mattress. It was set to sound a remote alarm by our bed if no movement was detected for 20 seconds. It even had an optional alert that could set off a muted beep every time movement WAS detected, so I could be lulled to sleep by the sweet digitalized detection of my baby’s movements. Overkill? Maybe. But it was the only thing that put my worried mind at ease enough to finally get some sleep.
The digitalization of babies has gone into overdrive in the past two years, with high-tech gadgetry that syncs up to parents’ iPhones and video systems that track the most minute details of children’s movement. A new monitor in development called the Owlet promises to deliver heart rate, oxygen levels, skin temperature and rollover alerts so that parents can check the detailed status of their child from anywhere, and even print out health information for pediatricians.
High-tech baby monitors have obvious functionality in the world of children who suffer from apnea and other medical conditions, but have the rest of us gone too far? Dr. Kenneth Bromberg, chairman of pediatrics at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, expressed his concern in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “This is an invitation to craziness. It will make you neurotic and anxious.”
I’ll admit that certain technologies like the “Smart Diaper” (which helps parents analyze their children’s urine for chemical imbalances and infection) seem a little over-the-top, but at the end of the day I believe that this technology is catering to parents who are already prone to anxiety over their child. My Angelcare monitor put my neurotic mind at ease, it didn’t instill that neurosis to begin with!
And to experts who claim that technology like this will cause parents to get lazy and monitor their baby by proxy, I’m going to guess that they’ve never experienced the frustration of inadvertently waking a sleeping baby while attempting to check on his vital signs every five seconds. Having the data at-hand, coupled with in-person observation, minimizes stress to the parent and disturbance to the baby, and I think ultimately helps the parenting community as a whole.
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