Spark

All the ways to track your baby

Would it make you feel better, or worse, to get a notification every time your baby cries?

If you know someone with a new baby, you may have seen some of the tech that, these days, seems to come with every child. The simple walkie-talkie style baby monitor has been a staple for years, but now parents are tracking their babies like never before.

Parents use systems like the Nest Cam, which sends a live stream of their babies to their smart phones, and sends them alerts if their baby moves or cries. Or there are apps like Starling, which tracks every word your child hears and, eventually, says. Or Mimo, an app that lets you check "your baby's breathing, sleeping temperature, body position, activity level, and whether they are awake and asleep".

Add to that a barrage of social media posts, and from birth, kids are under an ever-vigilant watchful eye.

Emily Hill began tracking the sleep, eating and diaper changes of her 5-month-old son, Brian, using a smartphone app. She started tracking her son's naps when she became worried about how much sleep he was getting, and switched from a paper journal to an app for the sake of convenience. Although she is already tracking a few aspects of her son's daily life, she is reluctant to branch into some of the other tracking options. "I think they would add a little bit more stress to my day. Whether or not I was getting enough words into him, or what his sleep actually looked like, so I'm trying to stay away from this, as interesting as they sound."

Natalie Kane is a curator at FutureEverything, a researcher in critical futures at Changeist, and creator of the Baby Futures website.
Technology writer and researcher Natalie Kane. (ndkane.com)
She says that what attracts parents to these technologies is that, "...it's a kind of mitigation of uncertainty... When you're a new parent, regardless of what friends tell you, or what people tell you, or what your mom tells you, or what the Internet tells you, you'll still want to have reassurance that you are in control." One problem, Natalie says, is that "...it increases a lot of the paranoia. It taps into a lot of the problems there is with wearable technologies, where you're given the data but you're not sure how to contextual it or make sense of it."

While self tracking is a trend that we have gotten more and more used to, using the same technology to track children raises some new questions. For example, whether or not tracking yourself is a good idea, how do you make that kind of decision for someone else?

"You're constantly having pictures of your friends children, and videos of them, things they're doing," Natalie says, "and the data that is being collected from the devices. It builds up this digital footprint that is sort of ready for when the child matures." A recent law in France allowed children to sue their parents for distributing things like photo on social media.

If there is a potential threat in making photos and videos available, what happens when log data of a child's every word, step and bowel movement?

"If you're a slow developer, or your data was picked up at a later stage... these things that you can't help, because you're a child and these are things that you have no conscious understanding of, could then go on to influence a university application... In this speculative scenario we see data as being more of a factor than it is now. More tied into who we fundamentally are seen by society as people. Then it becomes a problem."



What do you think about all this? If it's already true that data about us affects our credit rating, what will all that data be used for in our children's future? And do the new parents in your life share way too many images of their kids, or do you like seeing them? Weigh in on FB and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

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