When Kid Tech Goes Too Far
I love tech. The refrigerator? Big fan. Washing machines? Yes, please. And, of course, I would like to lick the boots of every single person involved with the development of the iPad, which keeps my children occupied when I need silence. But with all the new ideas and products out there, there’s a real danger of going overboard. There some things, friends, that don’t need to be digitized.
At the risk of sounding like the old fogey that I am, there are some parts of parenting that work just fine without Wi-Fi. The products below, however, promise they will make life with a baby easier, even if they feel like something out of a dystopian nightmare.
The Wi-Fi-enabled water bottle
For those of you who can’t watch the video, let me sum up this piece of gadgetry for you: it’s a water bottle that monitors how much your children drink, encourages them to drink more with virtual “pets,” and downloads their drinking data to the Cloud so that you, their water-obsessed parent, can monitor their intake when you should be paying attention during a meeting, Gayle.
Putting aside the fact that this thing has motion sensors and an inclinometer (which, spoiler alert, is nuts), the video says that the goal of the Gululu is to “make drinking water fun and rewarding.” It’s water. Something that keeps you alive doesn’t need to be fun and rewarding because not dying is fun and rewarding all on its own. This is how you get kids who say, “I was going to write my essay on Napoleon, Professor Smith, but it just didn’t seem fun or rewarding.” Life is hard. Drink your water.
It’s also important to note that Gululu is also trying to sell itself as what will be your kid’s only friend. Says the video: “Gululu is no ordinary bottle — it’s also a daily companion.” Dudes, no. Let’s not encourage friendships between children and water bottles.
Smart Bottle Feeding
Another product trying to turn “simple” into “science” is the Bluesmart Mia. This removable sleeve provides an excruciatingly detailed amount of data about your bottle feeding, which is great because when I was up bottle-feeding twins at 3 am, what I was missing was some data analysis.
The Bluesmart Mia tells you things like whether your bottle is too hot or too cold, and will send out an alert if you aren’t holding the bottle at the proper angle to reduce the amount of gas that ends up in your baby’s stomach. In short, the Bluesmart Mia is every stranger a new mother meets at the grocery store who has advice for how she should take care of her baby. Except now the stranger lives with you and will send you texts at work with detailed logs about how much your baby is eating and the pace at which they’re doing so.
The infant learning monitor
If tech has taught anything, it’s that every moment with we share with our newborns is one that we could be using for data analysis and process improvement. That’s why we need a product like Oto, which bills itself as the “world’s first baby learning monitor.” From day one you can start tracking your infant’s intellectual and emotional development by counting the number of words, conversations, and positive words your baby hears on a daily basis.
Oto, whose logo is a bear in casual clothes, reminds parents that “90% of your child’s brain develops by the age of 5,” and that “decades of research confirm that child’s IQ is predicted by the quantity and quality of language they hear in their first years.” So you’d better start chatting up that baby with some happy talk tout suite. Here are a few ideas for conversation starters:
–What to do with rotted-off belly buttons: shadow box or illuminated pedestal?
–The cleansing effect of vomiting.
–How much brighter the world looks after 3 broken hours of sleep.
The Think and Learn Smart Cycle
There’s an episode of Black Mirror called “Fifteen Million Merits” in which people are forced to pedal exercise bikes all day in order to earn merits, which allow them to pay for food, clothes, and other basic needs. But anyway, let’s talk about the Think and Learn Smart Cycle.
This award-winning toy allows kids to pedal their way to knowledge. It has three modes: driving, gaming, and racing, each of which helps preschoolers earn their keep by learning spelling, vocabulary, reading, and rhyming. “The more kids pedal, the more they learn,” claims Fisher-Price, and that will only help parents reinforce to their 3- to 6-year-olds that you gain nothing in this life by sitting still. Movement. Fast. Always.
But will my children’s exertion learning toy connect to my Bluetooth? Duh. Of course, it will. Use it connect the bike to your TV screen and kids will get an immersive experience racing as fast they can from nothing to nowhere. All that learning and you’re still in your parent’s living room? Welcome to the real world, honey.
The Wearable Motion Detector
The Starling Early Education Wearable has everything: a noise monitor, a motion detector, a report on how much sunlight your child is exposed to….
The focus of this product is the word counter, but when you throw in something like “metrics on sunlight exposure” you pique my interest. It’s part of the goal to get kids moving and pairs with their motion detector. You have to appreciate that starling is going a step beyond their competitors, who don’t care if your baby runs around in the dark.
Meet Ellie, the portable, germ-killing, USB-recharging, stress case. In 60 seconds, Ellie uses UV light to kill germs that might be on your baby’s pacifier, spoon, or bottle. Because you can never be too safe — a point that terrified parents are reminded of in the promotional video. “Underdeveloped immune systems,” the narrator says in a soothing voice, “are unable to fight off deadly germs and viruses.” Sweet.
You can also carry Ellie everywhere with you and sterilize anything you want, like a crazy person.
There are a lot of people out there who don’t need this kind of encouragement to feed into their germ paranoia. And Ellie knows exactly who to target: those optimistic folks who don’t have a lot (or any) parenting experience and still think that once their baby is born they will be able to have some control over what it puts its’ mouth on. Yes, Ellie is being marketed towards new parents or couples who are expecting because the rest of us jerks with older kids just sit there and watch them lick the food court table at the mall and tell ourselves it will boost their immune systems.
In short, take it easy out there, folks. You don’t need to track how many words you say to your baby every day or make them multitask on a stationary bike in order to be a good parent. They’re going to end up living in your basement regardless, so, relax.