VIDEO: 5 Insane Devices for Monitoring Your Kids

Moms and dads are turning into the NSA.

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The story was first posted on April 13, 2015. The original writeup is below:

We're in the midst of a tech revolution that's changing childhood for the worse. It's the constant digital surveillance of our kids. Here are five devices that are turning moms and dads into the NSA.

(1) Today there are literally hundreds of baby monitors on the market that stream live video, and many are infrared so you can peer in the dark as your baby snoozes under his Mozart mobile. Some models pivot and tilt, which seems like the sort of tool that might appeal to Seal Team 6. But parents?

(2) Then there are all the gadgets you can attach to your baby, like the Owlet monitor. Do you know your blood oxygen level? Why are we treating healthy babies like they need neonatal intensive care? 

(3) Making parents afraid for their kids is a goldmine for companies, which explains the coming arrival of Smart Diapers that help parents analyze the chemical content of their babies' output. Because how dare you toss such a vital diagnostic specimen just into the Diaper Genie?

(4) Once the kids venture out, there's a tsunami of tracking devices that allow parents to strap the equivalent of an FBI ankle bracelet onto their offspring. One of these is V. ALRT, which can detect if your kid falls down. Can you imagine how anxiety inducing—and yet completely useless—this will be? "Warning your child has fallen. Commence feeling bad."

(5) The new Apple Watch is a revolutionary device, but I worry it could turn into the Swiss Army Knife of tracking tools—video feeds, GPS locators, biometric sensors.

These gadgets promise they'll give parents peace of mind, but they do the exact opposite. They create constant fear—fear so great that you believe you must buy these things or your child is in grave danger. Once you've become convinced that your happy, healthy baby in her crib needs blood oxygen monitoring—or that you need to track your teen's heart rate and GPS on a date, which is too disgusting to think about, you'll be a total wreck. Meantime, your kids feel all the joy of a prisoner under house arrest.

Saying, "these devices provide peace of mind," is like saying, "this box of mosquitoes will provide a good night's sleep." Do not open the box.

About 3 minutes and 22 seconds.

Written by Lenore Skenazy and Jim Epstein. Produced, shot, and edited by Jim Epstein, with help from Anthony L. Fisher and Dan Rogenstein.

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  1. I prefer to Merrimack my kids.

  2. I’m not so much against the constant observation of your kids as I am against the impulse to use that information.

    IOW, you’ve got to treat it like an espionage problem – which it *is*. You have to trade off the security of sources against acting. So, instead of freaking out when you see that the kid smoked pot/huffed paint/skipped school/whatever you use this as a head’s up and take the time to figure out the root cause and intervene *there*.

    Giving your kid a GPS monitor ‘just in case’, while over-reacting, isn’t too bad. Finding out that he’s skipped school and freaking out about it – all that will do is make the kid learn how to spoof it, destroying your intel source.

    Of course, it also means that you need to calibrate you sense of what is *important* and unusual for childhood so you aren’t freaking out about bullshit that all kids do and most grow out of. Which would also mean that you wouldn’t use the stupider of these devices – like the tennager’s heart rate monitor.

  3. We will never share information that can be traced to your child. Communication between our phone app and Amazon and storage of data is secured

    Uh, huh.

  4. I agree with the sentiment, but the rhetoric is a bit over the top.

    I grew up on a farm. We worked our asses off using dangerous tools and machines. When we had free time we were told that if we could be seen we would be put to work. By the age of ten I was wandering all over the woods unsupervised for a whole day, sometimes two or three if we camped out. By the age of fourteen we wandered around unsupervised with guns.

    We never smoked pot, did drugs, stole, hurt anyone or vandalized anything. We did have a hell of a good time. I guess you could say we were free range kids. Not one of us became a jail-bird, a prostitute or a drug head and nobody died.

    When I see what so many parents today have become I am horrified.

    1. By the age of ten I was wandering all over the woods unsupervised for a whole day, sometimes two or three if we camped out. By the age of fourteen we wandered around unsupervised with guns.

      When I see what so many parents today have become I am horrified.

      So much this!

      And I pity the kids who never taste that freedom.

  5. On the topic of “safety” good Ken White piece up at Popehat.

    I call these young people out for valuing illusory and subjective safety over liberty. I accuse them of accepting that speech is “harmful” without logic or proof. I mock them for not grasping that universities are supposed to be places of open inquiry. I condemn them for not being critical about the difference between nasty speech and nasty actions, and for thinking they have a right not to be offended. I belittle them for abandoning fundamental American values.

    But recently a question occurred to me: where, exactly, do I think these young people should have learned the values that I expect them to uphold?

    Today’s college students came of age in the years after 9/11. What did we teach them about the balance between liberty and safety in that time?

  6. College gets attacked because they served Mexican food at a sci-fi themed dinner and people claimed this was contributing to the idea that Mexicans are illegal aliens.

    Get it?

    I am writing today to apologize for a mistake in judgement that took place in the planning of last night’s College Night. The theme was “Intergalactic” and the decor included robots and space ships with aliens. Unfortunately, the program planners made a poor decision when choosing to serve a Mexican food buffet during a program that included spaceships and “aliens”, failing to take into account how these choices might be perceived by others. We would never want to make a connection between individuals of Latino heritage or undocumented students and “aliens” and I am so sorry that our College Night appeared to do exactly that.

    These are the dumbest people in history.

    1. Wow, you really have to be devoting all your effort to this to even remotely find a connection between sci-fi and Mexican food.

    2. Wow, you really have to be devoting all your effort to this to even remotely find a connection between sci-fi and Mexican food.

    3. What is this.. I can’t even..

    4. Nope, they’re actually losers who have figured out how to get power, making them smarter than your average loser. They’ve figured out how to mob bully people effectively enough to get them to apologize profusely and genuflect before them over the stupidest bullshit imaginable, and it works.

      Now, the people who capitulate to them? They’re some of the dumbest people in history, because they’re actually kowtowing to absurd bullying losers instead of laughing at them until they fuck off. It’s like they’re being bullied by the retarded kids, and allowing it to happen.

      1. Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner.

        The only proper response to such nuttery is, “Fuck off, and die in a fire, retard.” That’s about all the consideration I can muster for these complete morons.

      1. Of course! We are one big, happy scifi community! Ah, HM, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold?

        1. bortaS bIr jablu’DI’ reH QaQqu’ nay’?

          1. Dude, your pronunciation is atrocious. Go back to the Klingon Military Academy and work on it. I know you were planning on going to the Borg Institute of Technology, but not with that accent.

            1. Only a veruul would use such language in public.

              1. Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!

      2. Something something combine soft corinthian leather with from Hell’s heart I stab at thee.

    5. If they think that’s bad, wait ’til they see the Chinese food at next week’s pet-themed night.

    6. You’re supposed to serve space food at a sci-fi night anyway. Everybody knows that.

  7. Why does Reason hate teh childrenz?

    1. According to some commenters, we treat children like lamps, or chattel.

  8. The new Apple Watch is a revolutionary device, but I worry it could turn into the Swiss Army Knife of tracking tools?video feeds, GPS locators, biometric sensors.

    How can it be “could turn into” when it already is that?

  9. We have become afraid of life.

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