Monday, August 03, 2015

We're Doomed (Again)

A local couple have developed a monitor that can track your infant's blood oxygen and heart rate through a sensor in a sock. You might think it is aimed at babies with serious health issues, but it is NOT

"What if I fall asleep and can't stay up 24 hours?"

And that statement right there is what terrifies me. You're now expected to monitor your baby 24 hours a day. The old, "Sleep when baby sleeps" advice given to generations of parents trying to juggle life with 3 AM feedings has now been expanded to, "Get a monitor complete with alarms that wakes you every time the baby kicks off a sock." Swell.

"OK well what do they do when you go to the hospital? They check the oxygen level and heart rate and you're like, OK what if we could bring that into the nursery?"

Yes, because obviously the baby's nursery should be on par with the neonatal unit at a hospital *Sarcastically slaps head*.

This product is far from unique. There are devices to start monitoring your baby's heartbeat at home whilst still in utero. Capitalising on the fears of new parents is nothing new (heated baby bottle warmers for the car, anyone?) but after a bit this sort of thing becomes normalised. If you think it stops when baby goes on solid foods and starts crawling you haven't been paying attention-before you know it children stop playing outdoors because something unpredictable might happen. Children are tracked and monitored via their mobile phones/devices so parents can see from work whether they came home straightaway from school, or if (god forbid) they stopped at the playground and took a few turns on the slide before barricading themselves in the digitally controlled home fortress. I know one woman that relocated, and rented a home to be nearer her college student child. You know, because something might happen.

Along the way we've arrived at the idea that risk is inherently a bad thing, no matter the form. Instead of encouraging children to learn the difference between carelessness and calculated risk, we remove any opportunity for problem solving from their lives. No one falls off a slide and breaks their arm ( as I did). No one tumbles down a flight of stairs and breaks their arm ( as I did). No one breaks a finger playing softball without a glove ( as I did). I didn't grow into a reckless adult, I don't drive as though I fancy myself immortal, and I don't deliberately place myself in harm's way. Still, if the situation did arise where I was staring down the gaping maw of a hungry shark, or faced with a grease fire in the kitchen, I have enough experience dealing with the unpredictable nature of life to prioritise what to do. I worry that this generation might not know to pull their head out of the shark's mouth. When seconds count, you don't want to be fumbling for the phone to text mummy.

I am concerned that these devices designed to reassure parents of their child's safety give a false impression that everything is under control. How many panicked drives to hospital, baby in tow will the false readings from these monitors cause? If you see baby sleeping restfully and breathing normally but get some worrying reading, wouldn't you trust the tech that something is wrong? *What if?* I'm concerned that dependence on technology takes common sense out of life.

I can see the day coming when not monitoring your baby/child's every move will be deemed neglect. Why wouldn't you want to be positively safe? The thing is, you can't be. The technology does not prevent life from happening. Of course we want our children to be safe. Of course we want to be reassured when we're standing in the doorway watching their chest rise and fall as they sleep that everything will be fine. You can't stay awake 24 hours. That's absolutely true. Whether or not we decide it is best to monitor our children 24 hours a day for some rare, unforeseen possibility is another question, one I fear we as a society have already answered.


Bibi said...

Welcome to the 21sr century where all must be surveilled!

Jay said...

I agree with you absolutely.

Goody said...

I pity the person looking for something exciting in my dull life.


Curtise said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Our society's increasing inability to assess and manage risk horrifies me, and does no favours to our kids. I think I am seen as a very lax parent because I don't micro-manage my kids' lives and monitor their every moment. And your point that relentless surveillance does NOT mean shit won't happen is so true. Weighing up risk is such an important skill, and we are in danger of robbing our kids of the chance to develop it.
PS. Catching up, catching up... you're looking fabulous in black and white! xxx

Connie said...

This is really so annoying isn't it? I can't imagine anything worse than being constantly monitored. I was once scolded by another mother for letting my kids walk to the store by themselves. They were 12 and 9. And now that they're grown I am NOT on Facebook so I won't be tempted to spy on them. And so far we're all doing very well. Independant and well able to handle ourselves in the big bad world. I do like to check up on you, though, Goodie...

Goody said...

Not being intrusive is now seen as lax. Sigh.

You're lucky the other mother didn't call the cops-ratting out other parents you don't approve of is the new bullying.

Sue said...

Well said and I agree with everyone who has commented. We are teaching people not to think for themselves or be responsible for their actions. "It's not my fault" is a favourite phrase these days. Glad I grew up when I did and let my kids be kids. They seem reasonably normal with plenty of life experiences, successes and failures they have learned from. Here in NZ they bought in an anti smacking law, FFS is all I thought.

Mim said...

I'd be a terrible parent, I'm such a worrier. I'd probably take the micro-management route. Good job I haven't got kids and won't be having any.

I'm an ace godmother; I'm taking the big one (American) to Spain next year. She wanted to wait till she was 18 so she'd be able to drink legally there. Funtimes ahead...

Beth Waltz said...

A local volunteer fireman told me that his rescue team had been called to a retention pond where a car could be seen partially submerged. They discovered a female teen at the wheel, still belted in her seat, in water up to her shoulders, holding her cell phone up out of the water ... He said they waded in, opened the door, unbuckled her belt, and escorted her, STILL TALKING, to dry land. Had some trouble getting her to interrupt her conversation to complete the necessary paperwork.