4 Child Safety Devices May Not Be as Safe as They Seem

Sat, Aug 29, 2015 @ 08:08 AM Karina Gafford Military Life

safety_baby_monitorShortly after my little one was born, my in-laws called me in concern. “Karina,” my mother-in-law began cautiously, “My sister said you don’t have a baby monitor. Is that correct?” I paused, wondering how to respond. She seemed mildly horrified, but from my perspective her question seemed ludicrous given our living situation. A baby monitor seemed like a wasteful purchase since we lived in a shoebox-sized apartment near the Pentagon. After all, I could hear my neighbor’s child crying, never mind my own.

“That’s correct,” I answered slowly.

“I’m sending one right away!”

As promised, a box arrived several days later. When I opened it, I found what amounted to a virtual nanny. It wasn't what I expected at all. This contraption sang songs, allowed me to speak through it to the baby (though I’m pretty sure he could hear me without the monitor), and gave alerts if baby started to stir. It even took pictures and videos, and that was just my handheld device! The accompanying camera rotated on command, and the entire device operated through our WiFi connection.

This monitoring system looked like a creepy hacker’s dream. I put it straight back into the box until I could figure out how to lock down the security settings. I’d seen more than enough articles online detailing how parents had walked into their child’s nursery only to either find the camera rotating to follow them or hear someone speaking to their child through the microphone.

As military families, we have enough personal security concerns without having to worry about how the latest and greatest child safety devices may further undermine our safety. But what can you do? From one military spouse to others, here are a few solutions.

1. WiFi Connected Monitor Devices

  • If you choose to use a WiFi connected monitor, change the default password that comes with the system immediately to something stronger, and create a strong WiFi password for your home network.
  • Install all updates from the manufacturer to ensure you have the latest security patches.
  • Install and update anti-virus and malware software on your computers.

2. Child Locating and Water Safety Devices

These wear like a watch and send an alert to parents when submerged in water for a set number of seconds or if the child is outside a set range. For parents with a pool in their home, this can be a life-saving alert. Death by drowning is the second leading cause of death in children under the age of four, and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 4 through 14.

However, these devices aren't as safe as they seem. In fact, the biggest concern is that they may lead parents to have a false sense of security. After all, nothing can replace having eyes on your child. 

3. Wipe Warmers

This isn’t exactly a safety device, but it is increasingly a staple of baby nurseries, so it deserves a mention. I cringe just a little every time my sweet baby son makes the shocked face when I wipe him down with yet another cold wipe. What did I do to deserve that, Ma? Maybe one day he’ll thank me for our decision not to use wipe warmers because of two major safety concerns: 1) The heat combined with the dampness of the wipes can create a bad bacteria and mold situation, and 2) Quite a few have been recalled for causing electrical fires after the liquid from the wipes seeped into the warming chamber.

4. Baby Bath Seats

Sorry to harp on about drowning risks, but these devices that supposedly help your child sit up in a bathtub unaided just won’t cut it when either your child starts to wriggle (which they do) or the device loses suction (which they will) and tips over. The concern with these devices is that, again, they lead parents to have a false sense of security about their child’s safety while bathing. No child can be left alone while bathing. OCONUS parents stationed in Europe will probably have heard and read plenty about the dangers following a number of infant deaths; you can read more about the dangers of these products in the European Child Safety Alliance Child Safety Product Guide.  

While safety technology can be useful for personal and home safety, it's important to be aware of concerns. If you know of any others, please share them with your fellow readers in the comments below!

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Photo credit: SaklakovaDollarPhotoClub