Plurals, often the children of Millennials, are being watched at almost all times from the day they are born, with tech acting as a second set of eyes for vigilant parents. We’ve spoken in the past about the ways that Millennial parents could change families, from bringing the baby to the biergarten to relying on lifehacks and tech to help them navigate parenthood. Now we’re seeing a new implication to this tech/parenting integration. Hyper-monitored childhoods are becoming the norm, moving beyond the generically over-protected upbringings of many Millennials, and making growing up a tech-supervised, increasingly quantified experience.
Baby monitors have been around for years in audio form. But today, video monitoring systems have become the norm on baby shower registries, and cameras have become as common a fixture above cribs as mobiles. Nightvision has moved from spy ware to parenting tool, with cameras that can see in the dark to make sure all is well in the nursery after children have been put to bed. Systems like iBaby Moniter send a video feed of baby straight to mom and dads’ smartphone—letting them not just watch, but also talk to their child from wherever they are. iBaby offers multiple monitors, and a two finger swipe on the accompanying app allows users to quickly change views between cameras throughout the house. Once children have graduated from the crib, whole house monitors are available, streaming feeds of every room to laptops and mobile devices. Though currently less common, it is not too hard to imagine that Millennial parents used to seeing their child’s every move might want to continue to watch as they grow up, even outside the house. Systems like WatchMeGrow put cameras into the classroom, equipping childcare centers with video monitoring systems allowing parents to check in on their little ones through a constant “true-to-life” video stream at any time.
App-enabled monitors have become commonplace, but more hyper-monitoring tools are beginning to seep into the market. The Mimo kit is a sensor suit in onesie form, reading babies’ temperature, body position, movement, and more and feeding a constant stream of stats to an Android or iPhone app that creates charts and infographics for parents to use to track changes over time. Monitoring mats like SafeToSleep work with a similar concept, sending “breathing information” directly to parents at all times. Another monitor, BabySense, focuses on motion detection detecting baby’s every move and sounding an alarm when children need attention.
The success of hyper-monitoring tech among today’s parents could partially lie in Millennials’ own inclination to be constantly connected. Including their children in that tendency only makes sense. To an extent, replicating their own parents’ over-protectiveness could also be a root of the hyper-monitoring movement. But there is also an allure to baby-monitoring tech that is more about Millennial parents maintaining some freedom than having an overprotective nature. If a baby is having their vitals monitored, or is being watched in their crib via video, it gives parents an ease of mind, but also some space to breathe. Eating dinner together, or having a beer with friends is less guilt-ridden and more enjoyable when there is a constant assurance that the sleeping tot is resting easy. As children grow up, Millennial parents could look for that same peace of mind and freedom to be separated physically from their children without guilt through apps and tools that allow them to monitor kids, tweens, and teens as well.
But what we don’t yet know is how Plurals themselves will be shaped by their constantly monitored upbringings. It could be that we are creating a generation who thinks nothing of having their every move recorded by someone else. Millennials have experienced this themselves on a slightly smaller scale. On the other hand, the constant feeling of being watched could mean that opportunities to escape the hyper-monitored world and “disappear” from time to time could hold increasing allure for them. We could even see a rebellious streak arise in some Plurals who look for the freedom from being watched that they have never known. We’ll have to watch and see.