PARENTS

Tracking Our Babies' Every Move. Are Tech Companies Preying On Parental Worries?

14/08/2014 16:57 | Updated 20 May 2015

Baby: Are tech companies preying on parental worries?

Worrying about our children is hardwired into every parent. But fear not! Fretting is to become a thing of the past. Wearable technology has entered the cot.

Yes, your baby can be bang on trend, because the world has gone stark staring mad.

Check out the Owlet. It's a health-tracking device for your baby. Attach it to their little ankle, and you can track their heart rate, oxygen levels, and skin temperature. It'll even alert you if they've rolled over in their sleep. All this information can be Bluetoothed directly to your smartphone. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

Admittedly, it probably sounds very reassuring to first-time mothers. I was such a worrier with my first daughter that a friend joked that I should have a thermometer strip permanently stuck on her forehead.

Then one of the more bonkers health visitors told me that if my baby rolled over in her sleep, I should turn her over so she was sleeping on her back again. If only I'd had an Owlet, I wouldn't have had to stay awake all night to watch her!

The thing is, though, new mothers are, by and large, crackers. Sleep-deprived, easily led, and easily panicked. They don't need to be encouraged in their obsessive paranoia.

The company says the Owlet 'offers peace of mind for an often times stressed and restless mother'. Does it? Does it really? Or does it make us panic even more? Constantly checking our child's readings, worrying that their heart rate has gone marginally up or down? Waiting for the bleep in the middle of the night which means she's rolled over, so we can leap out of bed and take action? Obsessively taking blankets off and on again to maintain the ideal temperature? These devices don't give us peace of mind. They keep us in a constant state of worry.

And once you've started, you can't stop. Once you've been sucked into this brave new world of stalking your children, it's a slippery slope.

Soon, you'll be moving onto wearable tech for children – with the KMS wristband, a tiny mobile phone which attaches to your child's wrist and has integrated GPS.

That means you can track the location – and possibly even the behaviour – of your child.

Sounds awesome, doesn't it? You can see exactly where your child is, by looking on a website map or smartphone app. It even alerts parents when the child leaves a 'pre-defined safe zone or route of travel'.

Hopefully in the future this gadget will be modified in order to give them electric shocks when they swear... or immobilise them if they're about to enter the pub...

But seriously. As parents, will we lose that instinct that KNOWS where your child has been and that they've been up to no good?

My own mother could sense from 10 yards whether I had disobeyed her and crossed the main road to the sweet shop. She simply had to fix me with a stare and I would give myself up. With Sherlock-like deduction, she knew when we'd been playing on the building site and, later, she knew when I'd been smoking in the woods on the way home from school. She didn't need a GPS monitor. Oh no.

These are parental instincts that we develop from the moment our baby is born – we start to learn when they need feeding, when they need a cuddle, and when they are ill.

As they grow, we can judge whether they're really sick, or trying to skive off school. We know when they're fibbing about who ate the last chocolate biscuit.

Devices such as the Owlet are used in hospitals and in pediatrics – they're useful for monitoring very sick children. Do ordinary babies really need them? We already have digital monitors, video monitors, electronic thermometers, cot sensors and webcams.

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Do we really need to track every breath our child takes? How long before we want to be able to read the minds of our children with a gadget?

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Have their DNA and personality traits analysed for their predisposition towards addiction and sign them up for preventative therapy? Peer directly into their souls?

Am I wrong? Do you welcome these gadgets and gizmos with open arms? Tell me why...

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