Helicopter parents tend to be overprotective these days, with a Skype connection to their kid's iPhones open almost all day. Here’s a few brand new gadgets for parents who aren't so control-oriented. This gear is designed for monitoring in the background -- and alerts you only when there's a serious problem.
1. Teddy the Guardian
Not every gadget for monitoring kids is meant for security. Teddy the Guardian looks like a plush toy but can read a child’s heart rate, oxygen saturation, and body temperature. The scans take place during casual playtime -- the child just has to hold a paw in his or her hand. Medical staff receive a text message directly from the teddy bear over a wireless signal.
No word on U.S. availability quite yet from the British company, but it’s available for pre-order for about $230 now.
This 2.4-ounce gadget is something kids can carry around all day in their backpack. With one button press on the Trax24, they can call an emergency response center for help. Parents can see a GPS map of the child’s location or get an alert if the child leaves a geo-fenced area. One unique feature: you can get an alert if the device senses when a teen driver is exceeding the speed limit. The device costs $149 and the tracking service costs $25-$35 per month.
In a demo at CES 2014, this family-centered PC showed promise. Because it runs on Android, it is lightning fast. Kids can do their homework in Google Docs on the Web and play angry Birds at night. Parents can monitor all activity using an app that shows which apps kids are using and for how long. You can also block apps and even limit how much time kids spend on sites like Tumblr or YouTube.com. The big win for parents: the MiiPC only costs $149.
Here’s a gadget that younger kids will think is cool and parents will love. The FiLIP watch looks like something a kid would wear on a Nickelodeon show. It shows the time on a large display, and kids can press one button to call home. For parents, there’s several powerful features. you can call or text the child, find their location on a map, or set a safe zone. (One example: you can have the FiLIP alert you if a child leaves an area around school.) The watch costs $199 but requires bundled AT&T service for $10 per month (unlimited voice and data).
Most gadgets in this roundup are designer for older elementary-age kids. The Mimo is helpful for monitoring infants. The Kimono onesie uses a sensor that looks like a baby turtle and monitors breathing and real-time audio. Parents can tap in over a home Wi-Fi network using a smartphone app (the Lilypad base station is required and connects to your router). A starter kit costs $199, and they’ll start shipping next month. Comes in three different sizes.
Although it is not designed specifically for monitoring kids, the Piper is a powerful ally in protecting the home. The small camera and motion sensor can sit on a ledge or attach to a wall. When you are not home, you can set an “away” mode and get a text or e-mail if there’s a loud noise, the house temp goes sky-high, or if someone comes in through the front door unannounced. The device, which costs $239, is easy for non-techies to install.
Many newer routers from companies like Belkin and D-Link offer parental controls for blocking sites and limiting access to certain times of the day. The Skydog goes a few steps further. You can block sites using filters for inappropriate content, but the router can also send you a text when a child uses an approved site for too long.
Helpful charts show how much time your household has spent online in total, and you can set up accounts for specific users. The router costs $149; the Skydog service runs in the tablet or phone browser, not as an app.