Becoming a new parent is terrifying. Aside from the fact that you’re suddenly responsible for actually keeping another human being alive, you also now have a never-ending list of things to keep track of and monitor…
…diaper changes, bowel movements, feedings, baths, doctor’s visits…the list goes on and on.
And let’s not forget the fact that you probably haven’t had a good night’s sleep since you left the hospital.
Talk about overwhelming!!
It’s no wonder that in today’s modern world, where 83% of new Moms are millennials, this generation of parents are turning to what they know best to help monitor and track their children’s health – technology.
If you’re a millennial that was brought up on smart phones and FitBits, using wearable monitoring devices to help keep track of your kid’s health and well-being may seem like the most natural thing in the world.
But are these data-driven devices doing more harm than good?
What Are Kids Health Monitoring Devices?
Whether you’re considered a millennial – born between 1982 and 2004, according to experts Howe and Strauss – or not, you’re probably familiar with the saying, “There’s an app for that!”
Because, there probably is. In today’s hi-tech world, there’s an app (or technology-based solution) for just about anything.
Especially when it comes to parenting.
You can find apps to put your baby to sleep, monitor their development, track their feedings, log their potty breaks – whatever parenting problem you’re facing, there’s an app that can help.
But health monitoring and tracking devices take hi-tech parenting to another level – well beyond the good old-fashioned app.
Rather than merely offering a digital solution for tracking your kids poop schedule or feeding times, wearable health monitoring and tracking devices provide specific real-time data about your child and (generally) deliver it right to your smartphone.
From hi-tech onesies to baby ‘smart socks’, the world of wearable health monitoring and tracking devices for kids is growing more and more popular – especially with millennial parents.
If you’re sitting there thinking, “What in the world is a baby smart sock?”, you’re not alone.
Being a millennial Mom myself, I like to think that I’m pretty well-versed in all the latest tech stuff.
But when my friend brought over her newborn sporting an Owlet Smart Sock and I asked what it was, she looked at me like I had walked straight out of the Stone Ages.
Clearly, I wasn’t as ‘cool’ as I thought.
So, for all you parents out there who may be feeling a bit behind the times like myself, let me introduce you to a few of the most popular hi-tech health monitoring wearables for kids today.
Photo: This Is Why I’m Broke
The Owlet Smart Sock is similar to a baby monitor but worn on your baby’s foot, just like a normal sock. But this is no normal sock.
It features a small sensor inside that can tell you everything from your infant’s heart rate to their oxygen levels, delivering all the data directly to your smartphone.
Co-founder, Jordan Monroe, told Quartz digital magazine that the device “is all about making parents feel like they might kind-of-sort-of know what they’re doing. Our goal is to make them feel empowered as parents.”
If a wearable sock to monitor your baby is not quite your style, what about a hi-tech onesie or crib sheet that can tell you everything about your baby’s sleep?
The Mimo Baby Sleep Tracker is a sensor-enhanced onesie that lets you know your baby’s sleep activity, temperature, body position, and whether they are currently awake or asleep.
The Mimo Activity Tracker, a washable sensor-enhanced crib sheet, provides live data as to how your baby is moving in their crib. And if that’s not enough, both of these can be connected to your Nest home thermostat to control the temperature in your nursery – all right from your phone.
Photo: Oh Gizmo
Have child who is prone to fevers? Well, with the Fever Scout, you can say goodbye to that traditional under-the-tongue thermometer.
Fever Scout is a sticky fabric patch that your child continuously wears like a temporary tattoo and allows you to monitor their temperature, you guessed it, right from your smartphone.
If you’re worried about your child’s whereabouts, the Kigo Watch will ease your mind with a GPS tracker that lets you know where your child is at all times.
It even has an emergency alarm that your child can press if they are in trouble, notifying you immediately. Plus, it’s waterproof and works abroad in a number of different countries.
(And just in case you couldn’t already guess, it is all tracked through your smartphone.)
Similar to a FitBit, the Vivofit Jr. is an activity tracker for kids ages 4 and up, intended to encourage more physical activity throughout your child’s day.
With this swim-friendly device, you and your child can track their steps, activity levels, sleep, and even chores – all from your smartphone.
Photo: Safe Baby Monitors
At-home fetal dopplers mean that you no longer have to wait for your baby to be born in order to start monitoring their health.
The Sonoline Fetal Doppler is a way for expectant parents to listen to their baby’s heartbeat from the comfort of their home.
Is your head spinning yet? Who knew that there were so many hi-tech gadgets available to help you monitor the health, well-being, and physical whereabouts of your child?
And that was honestly the short list…there are an overwhelming amount of hi-tech monitoring devices for the tech-savvy parent today.
Which brings me back to my original question – just because it’s possible to monitor your child with these hi-tech devices, does that mean that you should?
Let me start by saying, I love all my hi-tech gadgets. I love my Fitbit, I am as attached to my iPhone as the next person, and I cannot live without my Bluetooth headphones and speaker.
So, it’s safe to say, I’m not anti-technology.
But, when it comes to loading my kids up with wearable tracking devices – I’m skeptical.
I can definitely understand the desire to track your child’s every breath, especially as a new parent.
But, at what point is all this data just too much?
Pediatrician and blogger, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, says:
“With this new tracking, we distract parents from learning how to listen to natural cues and cycles. We want parents to listen to a baby and let the baby run the show—and a lot of these gadgets feel like they’re trying to outsmart the baby.”
Furthermore, there is no evidence to support that all of this data reduces parent stress.
Parents often purchase these monitoring devices with the hope that having more information will not only keep their baby healthier and lower their risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), but also help to quiet their parental worries and concerns.
However, Swanson believes that these devices may actually do more harm than good, “Anecdotally, I see them increasing anxiety. There are a lot of false positives, and parents are getting out of bed terrified because they get an alert.”
Can you imagine the panic that you would feel if every time your child’s temperature or heartrate fluctuated slightly, an alarm went off on your phone?
Besides, is it really necessary to know your baby’s blood-oxygen levels? Or exactly how many steps your four-year-old took today?
It’s information overload.
So, while I don’t doubt that parents purchase these monitoring devices with the best intentions of keeping their kids safer and giving themselves a little peace of mind, the overload of data may very well have the opposite effect.
Effectiveness and Safety Concerns
Earlier this year, the Journal of the American Medical Association warned that the ‘safety, effectiveness, and accuracy’ of child and baby health monitoring devices are not checked or approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The authors of the article stated that, “There is no evidence that consumer infant physiologic monitors are life-saving, and there is potential for harm if parents choose to use them.”
Hmmm, what does that mean exactly?
Essentially what they’re saying is that the effectiveness of these devices is not guaranteed.
Which is actually scarier than it may sound.
Because while it’s mildly annoying when the GPS on my iPhone malfunctions, if my baby’s sock monitor misinformed me that her heart had stopped beating, it’d be a completely different situation.
And beyond the possibility for tech-malfunctions, the potential health hazards of these devices have not been fully tested nor are they explicitly understood.
Over the years, there have been countless studies done on the effects that prolonged cell-phone use or use of Bluetooth devices may have on human health. And while the data is largely inconclusive at this point, it certainly has not eliminated the possibility that too much technology-use could have adverse health effects down the road.
Cliché as it may sound, need I remind you that for a long time we thought cigarettes were harmless?
Finding a Balance
As parents, all we want is to keep our kids safe and healthy.
And with all of the opinions and advice that we’re bombarded with on a daily basis, especially in today’s digital world where information is passed as quickly as the common cold, it can be hard to decide what the best parenting practices are.
Which is probably why all of these hi-tech health monitors and tracking devices tend to look so appealing. These products make parents feel like they are taking charge of their children’s well-being in a very tangible way.
And that’s not totally untrue…in moderation.
If having your baby wear a sock monitor gives you peace of mind and you don’t find yourself running to the hospital every time their temperature rises .01 degrees, then that’s great and you should continue what you’re doing.
But if every time you notice that your five-year-old didn’t hit their daily activity quota, you feel a slight coronary coming on – it might be time to de-tech your life a bit.
Just like with anything in life, as parents, we have to find that balance of what works for us and our children, especially when it comes to hi-tech parenting.