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Parenting In The Time Of WiFi

How to navigate the baby tech boom

What a time to be a parent.  For every challenge we face, there are countless (sleek, sophisticated, and oh-so-tempting) WiFi-enabled solutions.  But with all the information smart products are able to deliver, the line between "informed and empowered" and "completely overwhelmed" can be fuzzy. We enlisted the help of family tech guru and been-there mom Jeana Tahnk for tips on implementing smart tech into your parenting life without stepping into the baby information abyss.

You’ve dedicated your career to writing about family tech. What positives do you see coming from the baby tech boom? Technology has given us the power of information. As parents, especially new ones, that is one of the most reassuring and helpful things we rely on to make sure our babies are not only OK, but thriving. Although sometimes it can feel like information overload, the baby tech boom has definitely given us way more information than any other generation of parents.

So true. And information is power! But what about some of the concerns, like safety and accuracy? Because we are the first generation of parents to experience/use/experiment with new technology, it can be really intimidating to know what is necessary and what really isn’t. And when it comes to little babies, we are their only protection, so integrating technology into their little worlds can be a tricky thing.

The world of baby wearables has grown so much over the past few years, yet it’s still a very nascent industry. We would like to think that all products made for babies are completely safe, but it’s hard to say at this point what any long-term effects are, and/or how necessary they are. Crazy to consider that even 10 years ago, there were no such products on the market and people got along just fine…but, of course, there are plenty of parents who adopt this technology and are very happy with it. A lot of it comes down to personal choice.

Tech innovation has gotten to a point where I do believe we can rely on the information that we are given. Smart thermometers have come a long way in the past couple years and now don’t even require skin contact to take a solid reading. Reputable brands, like Nokia (formerly Withings), undergo massive amounts of testing and R&D to ensure the quality of the products they provide.

So the golden rule of parenting applies: it’s all a personal choice.  What advice would you give to new parents to keep them from becoming overwhelmed with all the choices— and consequent information? Try to focus on what YOU need as a new parent and what would make your life easier, as opposed to being blanketed by the thousands of baby tech products available and feeling like you have to acquiesce. Start with one product whether it’s a high-tech baby monitor, swing or smart car seat (yes, they exist) and you can build from there, if you need more.

What are some of your favorite resources for researching smart products?  Most sites cover tech products these days, so rely on brands and magazines that you trust as sources of information. If you’re a dedicated reader of Parents Magazine, they cover tech products so start there. There are also tech-specific sites like Cool Mom Tech that have really useful information from a parent’s perspective. For more thorough reviews and product comparisons, you can always rely on sites like CNET, depending on what kind of tech you’re looking for.

Oftentimes, the best source of information is your own network.  Word of mouth and recommendations are probably the best way to find out about new products and gadgets. Scour Facebook and ask around for tech that people can’t live without. You’ll likely hear about a lot of cool products and may even find a few that you incorporate into your own life.

Just for fun: you’re on a desert island with your family.  By some miracle, there's wifi. You've got 3 smart products. What are they?

- My iPhone

- My son’s iPhone

- My husband’s iPhone

There really isn’t much that the iPhone can’t do. And if the three phone-owning members of my family have their phones too, I can continue to communicate with them when I’m on the other side of the island collecting coconuts.

 

Amen to that.  Thanks, Jeana!