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Do High-Tech Baby Monitors Do More Harm Than Good?

When she's not writing, Claire Gillespie can most often be found wiping snotty noses, picking up Lego, taking photos of her cat or doing headstands.

That trendy 'smart' monitor might only provide unnecessary fear and panic

Modern technology can definitely make our lives as parents easier. From electric breast pumps to digital thermometers (digital anything, really), we may be able to save time, get answers and preserve our sanity by relying on these high-tech gadgets. But are they really making our lives easier? Or are they adding to our stress?

When it comes to high-tech baby monitors (those that connect wirelessly to a smartphone and alert parents to changes in their child's breathing rate or pulse), some medical professionals have argued that they're doing more harm than good by instilling fear and self-doubt in parents whose babies are perfectly healthy.

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The ultra-modern monitors replace the old-school versions, which simply transmit any noise the child makes to a radio receiver. The manufacturers of the so-called "smart monitors" claim they reduce stress because parents don't have to worry about going out of earshot of the receiver (or walk around the house with it in their hand.)

But an opinion piece from child health experts at the University of Pennsylvania published in the JAMA medical journal argues that there is potential for the smart monitor to get the signs wrong, leading to unnecessary panic. At the very least, the authors found no evidence that the modern devices do anything useful. Gadgets mentioned in the piece include the Baby Vida, MonBaby, Owlet, Snuza Pico, and Sproutling wearables, which come as smart socks, onesies and diaper clips and cost anywhere from $150 to $300 each.

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"These devices are marketed aggressively to parents of healthy babies, promising peace of mind about their child’s cardiorespiratory health," said pediatrician Dr. Christopher P. Bonafide from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. "But there is no evidence that these consumer infant physiological monitors are life-saving or even accurate, and these products may cause unnecessary fear, uncertainty and self-doubt in parents."

While these devices don't make specific claims about being able to prevents SIDS or reduce a baby's distress (meaning they don't have to be regulated by the FDA), there's no doubt that most parents keen to do everything within their power to keep their infants safe will believe that the more high-tech a monitor is, the better.

But in this case, it could be that listening out for your baby's cries through a crackly radio receiver can't be beaten.

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