They grow up so quickly – your little one has been in your life for six whole months already. They’ve started trying some solid foods, but while watching wee faces react to a first taste of banana is fun, this new stage can be a little nerve-wracking, too.
Moving on from milk isn’t always a breeze. You’ll need to avoid constipation, which more-or-less means remembering the last time baby pooped. An amazing new product can track tiny number ones and twos while helping with another important parenting task: introducing your precious wonder to a lifetime of surveillance.
It’s an irresistible combination, and comes courtesy of smart diapers, the techy, 21st-century version of an ancient device that nobody knew they needed.
Here’s how it works: Parents attach a Bluetooth sensor to the front of baby’s diaper, which syncs with an accompanying app. That creates a handy log of diaper data that helps you see whether wet and smelly deliveries are arriving on schedule. Huggies launched its version in South Korea last winter.
Pampers introduced its take, the Lumi, this month. Unfortunately, its app doesn’t actually track poops. It’s still definitely a great product though, because the technology was developed in conjunction with Verily, an Alphabet-owned subsidiary of Google (which has been fined millions for violating the privacy of children who use their video-streaming service YouTube, not that it’s important).
Both send caregivers an alert when baby needs a change, a handy feature for parents “working two jobs,” as Tony Park, who developed Huggies’ sensor, pointed out to Vox.
“They want to get involved in parenting, but they don’t have enough time to share with their baby,” he said. Now, “they can get a notification whenever and wherever.”
Smart diapers not only allow parents to pay limited attention to their child – they also introduce babies to the internet-connected world. Companies track how often you buy new diapers, creating baby’s first consumer profile. The Lumi works alongside a wireless video monitor, increasing baby’s potential opportunities to learn about hacking.
Parents benefit, too, with an early entry into tech-enabled helicopter parenting. Raising a modern child involves being constantly delivered a mountain of data, which everybody wants. Ignore the Irish mother who told the Guardian that she disabled her baby app after realizing that “the level of information it was giving me was making me way more anxious.”
Truly careful caregivers watch the video feed from baby’s daycare as many hours as their work allows. In future summers, when they head off to sleepaway camp, you’ll move on to receiving constant photos of them – and only them – thanks to the convenience of facial recognition.
Allowing Artificial Intelligence to identify young campers and store their images is a breakthrough. The more companies storing intimate data in ways that may or may not be secure, the better. In less advanced times, parents simply couldn’t be sent dozens of pics during their child’s time away, nor monitor their location via GPS, or have an algorithm sift through their communication to analyze it for bad behaviour.
After all, times change, and previous generations didn’t skip school or go to the mall without permission. Young people should not be left alone to figure out a few things on their own – even if a number of psychologists have suggested children are more likely to grow into responsible, self-sufficient adults if they’re given a little autonomy.
That sort of fear-mongering is unfair when parents are so vulnerable, as is the idea that technology might interfere with meaningful parenting. Here’s an example, from one researcher who looks at human-computer relationships and told the Guardian about a study on wired socks that monitor baby’s temperature, heart rate, oxygen levels and movement while they sleep.
“One of the mothers suffered from postpartum anxiety and she always used to get up in the middle of the night and put her hand on her baby to check that he was breathing,” Aisling O’Kane of the University of Bristol said.
“She was happy to tell us she wasn’t doing that any more – she was just checking her phone … I don’t know if we would interpret it as that positive. Proximity and touch in the first few months of life is incredibly important.”
That’s clearly nonsense, as you will totally touch your baby, every time you change a diaper. Which will happen just as soon as the app sends a notification.