At-home technology might mean something different to each person. To a single, working person, it could mean an alarm clock, laptop or a good television. To a college student, this could be a great set of smart speakers, a streaming stick or a PlayStation 5. To me, as a parent, it means Google Home AND Echo Dot (don’t ask me why), all the gaming systems we could find, tablets and security cameras.
At-home technology is an ever-changing medium. There is literally something for everyone, from life alert devices for our grandparents, to…well…life alert devices for newborn babies. But at what point does it become too much? When do we need to step back and do things for ourselves? And most importantly, are we bringing technology into our homes and our children’s lives safely?
I’m sure you’ve heard the stories, baby monitors being hacked, strangers talking to your children through them, or looking into your home. This is real. It has absolutely happened, and was reported by reputable news sites like Global News. However, most baby monitors that connect this way are really just rebranded security cameras. Realistically, this could happen to any camera placed in or around your home that is connected to a network, but preying on parents and threatening child-safety is the fastest—and scariest—way to spread the news.
My mother often talks about how strange it is that we have all this at-home technology for our children. They didn’t have cameras on us at all times in the 80s and 90s, and we turned out just fine, right? Right (well, maybe). But they also didn’t have proper car seats, so that argument goes out the window. A baby monitor is absolutely not a necessity for child-safety.
It is a comfort for new parents and experienced ones alike. It gives mom and dad a chance to rest easy, and lets parents give those phantom cries a break (if you know, you know). And for the record, Grandma loves the monitor when she babysits too. She dove into at-home technology pretty fast!
Here is my concern with baby monitors today though, and this might be where the paranoia kicks in. For the most part, footage from security cameras is stored in the cloud. With brands like ecobee and Nooie marketing their security cameras as baby monitors, the footage storage remains the same. Yes, you can absolutely purchase an SD card for most of these devices—and I would highly recommend this route—but that is an added step, and an added cost, that most would rather not take.
Now why is storing the footage in the cloud a problem? THAT can absolutely be hacked, as it has for many celebrities over the years, I’m sure. This means that anything going on in my children’s bedroom is now stored online. Of course, companies promise the utmost safety with your personal recordings, but I can’t say I’m comfortable with them having them in the first place. My six-year-old has run butt-naked through this entire house—yes, sometimes they get a little feral—and I have had to go onto my ecobee app and delete screenshots that the authorities would prefer no one keeps on their phone.
A company like Nooie automatically stores your recordings, and in order to delete them, or even have them, it is an entire process. Our writer, David Walters, discussed it in his review of the Nooie Cam 360,
“The cloud storage, however, left me concerned as a parent. While setting up the device in my kids’ bedroom, the Nooie app stated that I should obtain consent from relevant individuals because the device may capture info about anyone that the camera sees, including children. They even go so far as to mention: ‘contact us to delete the data once you find that the device captured information of other individuals without consent.’”
That seems a little more than I should have to be involved with if my kid does something crazy, never mind having to ask for recording consent if my kids have friends over. Yes, I am aware that it is all formalities, but should a baby monitor—in my child’s room—really be so controversial?
This could be a really dark rabbit hole. Remember the Xbox Kinect, or any laptop, or smart screen that comes with a little slider to block out cameras for safety? It’s crazy to think about the kind of dangers that can lurk in your own home simply because you wanted to play video games, talk to Alexa, or do some work at home. Where is the line?
Now, realistically, am I worried about someone breaking into my home via video camera? No. Am I worried about the people online that join my son’s Fortnite party? Absolutely. We have a lot of rules at home surrounding technology. You have to when you have children. People are so much more accessible now than when we were kids. Even when I think I’ve done everything right protecting my kids, I catch something new I missed.
Playing Fortnite on Nintendo Switch, we had it down to a science. We add no one. We only play with people we know are safe, approved by your grown-ups. Quick trick—I even have my son logged into the Epic launcher on my PC, so I can see if he adds someone I don’t know. I’m thankful that I did that. It turns out, after playing with a slightly older cousin, they were introduced to a friend, and then a friend of that friend. It all escalates very quickly nowadays. Children trust so easily.
Of course, this was still another child, thankfully, but one I didn’t know, and one that didn’t use the kind of language I allow around my six-year-old. Luckily, my son is still pretty honest about what is going on around him, he hasn’t quite mastered the art of lying. Once he filled me in, I hopped on the headset, asked some questions, and got him and my nephew out of the party with the child they didn’t know—who they both had added. Every day is a lesson with kids and technology. Learning never stops.
Baby monitors and video games are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to at-home technology. Alexa and Google Home will answer whatever they ask. Most kids have tablets, and YouTube is basically an obsession for their age group. Everywhere you look, there is something you need to protect them from. And as they get older, the dangers will only get worse. So what are we as parents to do?
“Baby monitors and video games are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to at-home technology.”
Unfortunately, there is no real answer. Stay informed? Yes. Stay involved? Yes. Always keep that conversation with your children going. Make sure they feel safe talking to you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions—yes, even to the preteens. But it’s always been important to me that I remain reasonable.
Most parents remember that feeling the first night your baby sleeps in their own room, or heck the first night in general. If you haven’t been there, you’ve seen it on TV. The parents spend the entire night checking in and making sure the baby is still breathing, especially if they’re actually sleeping well, usually ending in waking the baby and ruining a night they could actually be sleeping themselves. It’s the best example of being overly cautious, and the same can go for at-home technology too.
If you, as a parent, throw on every child-safety feature, read every DM, or constantly jump into voice chat, eventually, kids are going to start feeling suffocated. That smothering can lead to rebelling, or hiding—making secret accounts on social media, using hidden messaging apps, or just not ever learning to make their own choices.
Of course, at six, this doesn’t really come up. But at some point soon—because they grow up quick—I’m going to need to learn to pick my battles. I, as a parent, am going to need to learn to trust my kid’s instincts. Right now, I’m doing my best to arm them with the tools they need to stay safe, especially when using at-home technology.
So, are we being safe with at-home technology, or are we all just a bit paranoid? I’d say it’s a healthy—and sometimes unhealthy—balance of both. There is never one right answer to parenting, and since at-home technology is always changing, so is how we need to choose to handle it. Don’t believe everything you see on the news, but remain aware of the risks that technology can pose. Don’t lock up all the technology available. Instead, keep a constant open dialogue about it. Just do your best, because we are all learning together.