A high-tech baby monitor has had so much pushback from children’s health groups and privacy experts its release has been cancelled.
Mattel was planning to release Aristotle to the marketplace and up until Wednesday was trumpeting what this $US299 device could do. The artificial intelligence (AI) unit sits in the corner of a baby’s room and watches absolutely everything. It collects data 24/7 and can respond to the baby’s needs.
If your baby is unsettled at 3am, Aristotle can turn on a night light to soothe them or play them a lullaby.
The part surveillance unit, part AI computer will even grow with your child. By the time your child reaches school Aristotle can help them with homework. After all, who knows your child better than the object who sits in the corner of their bedroom 24 hours a day?
Children’s health and privacy advocates petitioned Mattel not to release the device because of privacy issues, the devices ability to store and collect data and the fact we still don’t know enough about the effects of technology on developing children. Mattel responded by saying it will not “move forward” with the release.
Which brings me to the big questions: Do we really think technology can do a better job than us when raising children? Is a smarter baby monitor progress? Or does the very thing that is meant to calm your nerves just exacerbate them?
I’m in the we-need-to-be-careful about our tech parenting helpers camp. Our uptake of devices that entertain, soothe, rock, “teach” and spy is occurring at a much greater rate than our understanding of their impact on children – and on us as parents.
And when it comes to baby monitors, maybe we are further complicating the already complicated parenting system.
Hear me out. I understand the very first priority of parents is to keep their baby safe, but when safety becomes big business pretty soon parents can be made to feel they need things that actually don’t help.
Baby monitors seem to have become must-haves now. I know every parent has different babies and different needs but for me, I made a conscious decision not to have a baby monitor. I think if I had one it would only have exacerbated my already visceral "new mum" anxiety.
I've had three kids and with each I was asked by friends or family if they could buy me a monitor as a baby shower gift and each time I said no. Something in me said that little device designed to help would overwhelm me and my instincts. I'm a natural worrier and I sensed the sounds from a monitor would only stoke my fears.
I had watched a friend carry one around her home and she looked panicked, not comforted, every time a noise escaped. Being able to hear every little squeak, roll and snuffle from the baby's room, the kind that don't require your attendance but grab your attention, would only keep me on high alert 24/7.
I didn't have a huge house and my hearing was already bionic. For the first three months they were all in the corner of my room and then they moved to the room next door where I could hear them very well and respond to their needs just as well as someone who had a baby monitor. For day sleeps the furthest I was away from their room was hanging out washing. And, to be perfectly honest, sometimes that space, both physically and mentally, was a saviour.
Obviously it's every parents' choice to baby monitor up or to leave the baby monitor alone. I sometimes wonder if technology that is meant to aid parents is making them more anxious. I did it the old fashioned way, listening up hallways and through walls, checking on them for no reason at all and they all grew up and turned out all right.
And so did I.
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