High Tech Parenting Gadgets

Security Camera - Home Security Camera

Home video cameras can provide some added security when set up around your home.
Home video cameras can provide some added security when set up around your home, especially where your kids play. Photo © Vincent Iannelli, MD

Although they are no substitute for direct supervision for younger children, home video security cameras are a great way to watch your older kids when they are playing outside.

They can also provide an extra layer of protection to see if someone is approaching the house or to see if one of the kids got out.

And although baby monitors are more routinely used inside, many video security cameras, including many wireless models, can just as easily be used in your home. With the right setup, you could even hook up a wireless camera to your iPhone to see your baby sleeping over your home wireless network.

In addition to help you directly supervise your children, some people also use cameras as a hidden in-home video surveillance system to monitor baby sitters or a nanny. In addition to a nanny cam that can be hidden in a stuffed animal or clock, you can use a regular wireless video camera. And although you usually don't have to tell your nanny that you are recording her with a hidden video camera, some states require that you do if you have the audio turned on. So do your research before getting a hidden nanny cam.

Storm Safety - Weather Radio

A weather alert radio can help make sure you are ready when a storm hits.
A weather alert radio can help make sure you are ready when a storm hits. Photo © Vincent Iannelli, MD

Most people know to go to a safe room when severe storms are coming, such as the interior room on the first floor of their home (or the basement if you have one).

But how do you know if a severe thunderstorm is coming if you are sleeping?

A desktop NOAA weather radio can alert you when storms are coming.

A handheld NOAA weather radio can be a great gadget when you aren't at home and to keep you up-to-date on the weather when you are in your safe room.

You might also consider getting a NOAA weather radio that also listen to AM and FM radio and VHF TV channels. Many of these include a flashlight and handcrank dynamo charger, so they will work even if you forget to change the batteries.

Rear View Camera - Back Over SUV Prevention

A rear view camera in your SUV can help to prevent backover injuries and deaths.
A rear view camera in your SUV can help to prevent backover injuries and deaths. Photo © Vincent Iannelli, MD

When you think of SUV safety risks, you likely still think of the possibility that they could rollover. But a hidden danger that is also important is the risk of backing over a child because of their large rear blind spot.

In addition to backup sensors that detect large items behind your car and SUV, a rear view camera can make sure the path is clear before you start to back up.

Night Lights - Power Failure Lights

A power failure night light can make sure your kids aren't in the dark if the power goes out.
A power failure night light can make sure your kids aren't in the dark if the power goes out. Photo © Vincent Iannelli, MD

Night lights can be helpful, especially for kids who aren't really afraid of the dark, and to help you check on your kids, even when the power goes out.

Newer night lights for parents who like high tech gadgets include:

  • automatic night lights that go on at dusk and off at dawn
  • motion activated night lights, which are especially helpful when you have to get up and check on the kids in the middle of the night
  • power failure night lights, which will only turn on when the power goes out

Baby Monitor - Baby Safety Monitors

A video baby monitor can be a good way to make sure your baby is safe and secure while sleeping.
A video baby monitor can be a good way to make sure your baby (or 18 month old in this case) is safe and secure while sleeping at night and during naps. Photo © Vincent Iannelli, MD

To reduce the risk of SIDS and help with breastfeeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that newborns and young infants should sleep in a crib, bassinet, or cradle in the same room as their mother.

Does that mean that you won't need a baby monitor until you move your baby to his own room? Not necessarily, as a baby monitor can also help you keep track of your baby during naps and if in the early evening when you may not be ready for bed yet.

An audio or video baby monitor is usually the first high-tech parenting tool that people get. While they can be a great way to keep an eye on your baby when he is sleeping, they can have some significant problems, including poor range and interference.

Interference is an increasing problem, as you likely already have other high-tech gadgets in your home. You may notice problems between your baby monitor and your 900MHz or 2.4GHz cordless phone, WiFi home network, other wireless devices, other baby monitors, and even your neighbor's gadgets.

If you buy a baby monitor, try to get one that is on a different frequency from your other wireless gadgets. The latest hig- tech monitor, the Philips AVENT SCD 600 Digital Digital Video Baby Monitor , uses digital-enhanced cordless telecommunication (DECT) technology to make it interference free. It also has automatic channel selection, so that outsiders can't snoop on your monitor feed, infra-red night vision, and it is sound activated.

Other new features on some video baby monitors include night vision, high-def digital video, internet connections, handheld monitors, movement sensors, and a nursery thermometer.

If you want a really high-tech baby monitor, consider getting an ethernet-ready internet video camera and hook it up to your home network. This will eliminate problems with interference and offer lots of cool features, like pan, tilt, zoom, motion detection, two-way audio, and being able to view the video on your home computer or on the internet.

Baby Monitor Snooping

To make sure that strangers don't intercept your monitor signal, including images of your baby, empty nursery, and your conversations, choose a digital baby monitor that offers private connections and turn the baby monitor off when you aren't using it.

Audio and video from an analog baby monitor can sometimes be accidentally heard and seen by others who are nearby with a similar brand of baby monitor or other equipment if they want to snoop on your monitor.

Baby Monitor Safety

A 2011 alert from the Consumer Product Safety Commission that infants can strangle on baby monitor cords highlights an even more tragic problem. At least seven babies have died after strangling on baby monitor cords.

Since then, there have been at least two baby monitor recalls and a baby monitor safety campaign that encourages parents to:

  • keep baby monitors cords out of the reach of their kids
  • place monitor cords at least 3 feet away from their baby's crib or bassinet
  • never put a monitor in or near a crib

When shopping for a baby monitor, parents should remember that medical home cardiorespiratory monitors have never been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to prevent SIDS, as they have never been proven to prevent SIDS.

High-Tech Toys for Kids

Your kids can have lots of fun with low-tech toys too.
Your kids can have lots of fun with low-tech toys too. Photo: Thomas Northcut / Getty Images

High-tech toys seem all the rage, even for infants and toddlers.

If a toys doesn't have lights, noises, and buttons, then it can't be fun, right?

Of course not. While some high-tech toys are great, many low or no-tech toys are fun and educational too. And they may actually hold your child's attention longer then many high-tech toys.

Which toys and games should you get your child?

Offering your child a good mix of high-tech toys and other toys that don't have computer chips, lights, or loud noises and that can spark your child's imagination, keep her entertained, and help her learn new things is probably best.

Depending on your child's age, these low-tech toys and games might include:

  • stuffed animals
  • dolls and action figures
  • blocks
  • board games
  • puzzles
  • cars
  • a ball

GPS Tracking - GPS Trackers for your Kids

Do you know where your kids are right now?

You likely have a strong hunch, with your kids either at a friend's house, at daycare, or at school.

But unless they are in the other room of your house, how can you know for sure where they are? Sure, you dropped your child off at school and you can assume he will be there until you pick him up, right?

Most people are comfortable with the day-to-day security they have in place for their children, but for those who need some extra protection, they might consider a personal GPS tracking device. When their child has one of these devices, a parent can track their location on their computer over the internet.

Whether you get a GPS tracker that your child can wear as a phone or get a tiny GPS device that you can hide in his backpack or put in his pocket, they are the latest high-tech gadget for those parents who want that extra piece of mind they might get from being able to track their kids.

You can also use them to track your teen or put a GPS tracking device in your teenager's car to monitor where he is driving.

Examples of GPS tracking devices include the:

Internet Phone and Chats with Webcams

The whole family can use a webcam and the internet to chat with friends and family members.
The whole family can use a webcam and the internet to chat and keep in touch with long distance friends and family members. Photo: Andreas Pollok / Getty Images

One of the more useful things a high-tech parent can do is get a high-speed internet connection and then use that to help their children communicate with other families easily and cheaply.

For example, you can install Skype on your computer and make calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world free of charge.

If you have a webcam, you can even have a free video chat with friends and family members on the internet. This is a great way for kids to stay in frequent touch with grandparents and other family members who don't live nearby. It is also great to use when a parent is traveling.

Internet Phones in an Emergency

In addition to a service like Skype, some parents are considering saving money by canceling their landline phone and only having an internet phone service, like Vonage, or a cell phone. Although this is typically less expensive and very high tech, keep in mind that this usually doesn't offer the best protection if you ever have an emergency and need to call 911.

Without a landline phone, if you have to call 911, consider that:

  • some customers will have to rely on the Vonage national emergency call center pass on their call to their local 911 center
  • you won't be able to call 911 at all with an internet phone if your power is out or internet connection goes down
  • dialing 911 with a cell phone is much less reliable than a landline, since many calls aren't routed to the local 911 center and they may not have your phone number or other contact information when they get the call

So while giving up your home phone line might sound like a good way to save money, you might keep a basic line in case of an emergency.

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