As a parent, do you feel like your baby monitor is part of the family? It follows you to the bathroom, cooks dinner with you, and watches your favorite shows next to you on the sofa. But how much do you really know about your baby monitor?
Monitors that use Wi-Fi or cellular networks to stream live video and sleep logs are awesome. However, they also present new risks that parents with traditional baby monitors just don’t have to worry about.
For those who feel less comfortable with technology (like me), the idea of protecting your monitor against hackers can feel overwhelming. No worries! This article covers the baby monitor basics and gives you expert tips to help make your smart monitor more resilient.
What Do I Need in a Baby Monitor?
The baby monitor market has continued to change drastically from the glorified walkie-talkies our grandparents used. Baby monitors today provide a wide array of useful features designed to help you and your baby.
If you’re a new parent, or if you had your last child a while ago, here’s a list of some of the newest features:
- Live-stream video feeds.
- Room temperature readings.
- Heartbeat monitoring.
- Stock lullabies to help baby sleep.
- Activity logs to monitor baby’s sleeping trends.
- Cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity to increase signal range.
All of these features are commonly found on the market these days. But, how do you know what you’ll need when baby actually arrives? Here’s a guide I often recommend to my pregnant friends.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Which features will I actually use? Does the idea of monitoring your baby’s heartbeat all night give you anxiety? Does grandma actually know how to download photos from the cloud? It’s helpful to think ahead about which features you probably won’t take advantage of, even if they’re really cool.
- How much am I willing to spend? The cost of a baby monitor varies widely, and the features you choose make a difference. If you know you want a smart device, it can be costly. If that isn’t in the budget, put it on your baby registry or ask a few friends to go in on it together.
- How comfortable am I with tech? Choosing a baby monitor app or a smart device creates a new kind of freedom for parents. It can widen the monitoring range, allow relatives to see baby on demand, and give you more peace of mind. But figuring out how to use it may be more stress than it’s worth.
Protecting baby from intruders is easier to do if you understand the world of complex passwords and software upgrades.
These are just a few questions to get you started. Before you seriously consider the variety of monitors available, you may want to check out what these parents have to say about other issues to consider before buying.
Old vs. New: The Monitors You Want, the Features You Need
The baby monitor market is changing. Fast. The tools parents can buy and use are seriously amazing, and give you more data on your baby than you ever thought possible. That being said, not every monitor is right for every family.
If you looked through the features above, and want to know which monitor can give you what you want, here is a list of baby monitor categories and an example for each.
- Traditional Monitors: These monitors are typically closed circuit systems, unable to connect to the internet. That being said, they have still changed drastically over time! Many now offer high-resolution video imaging, two-way communication and signal strength that gets better all the time.
- Baby Monitor Apps: Baby monitor apps allow you to forgo the purchase of a separate monitoring system entirely, as long as you have an extra smartphone lying around. These apps have many of the same features as traditional monitors, while also providing new tools like activity logs and video recording.
- Smart Baby Monitors: These monitors use the internet to transmit data to the receiving device and, in some cases, to other devices you specify. Many of these monitors can collect data (heartbeat, oxygen levels, sleep disturbances) to help you monitor how your newborn is sleeping. These monitors are loved for their long signal ranges, data sharing capabilities and their ability to monitor the room environment and your baby.
How Do I Pick a Safe Baby Monitor?
Alright, so you’ve used the guide above, talked to friends and relatives, and decided a smart monitor is for you! Now what?
Welcome to a truly brave new world. Unless IT security and high tech gadgets are your thing, you’ll probably need to consult the experts.
Luckily for us, researchers have already done a considerable amount of work in testing the hacking vulnerabilities of smart baby monitors (1).
Unfortunately, this is because reports of hacked baby monitors are on the increase as more parents adopt the technology. It does happen, but there are steps that experts recommend to protect your family before you even install the camera (2).
1. Learn the Jargon
For those of us who have been happily living in technology ignorance (no shame here!), this is a steep learning curve. But it’s absolutely critical for parents that want a smart monitor. Here are some key topics to familiarize yourself with:
- Encryption: The process through which data is converted from a readable format to an encoded format. According to Kaspersky Lab, a cyber security firm, it is “the basic building block of data security” (3).
- Password protection: A strong password is the first line of defense against potential hackers (4). Getting creative with passwords doesn’t have to cause anxiety. There are tons of apps that allow you to safely store passwords or even create them for you (5).
- Network security: The process of securing your internal Wi-Fi network and equipment (6). Smart monitors use your routers and other infrastructure to share data with you, so a secure network at home is just as important as a secure device itself.
- Malware: A software program designed to enter a computer, usually to cause damage. Your device can get malware if you open emails from people you don’t know, or visit suspicious websites (7).
Building good cyber security habits and staying vigilant while connected to the internet will go a long way in protecting your family’s data. If you’re interested in learning more about how to protect your smart devices from identity thieves, watch this video.
2. Do the Research
Do a quick Google search to see if the product you’re interested in has had any problems. Or, better yet, use the new jargon you just spent countless hours researching to call the company and ask what they do to secure their product.
If the product comes with an app, check out the comment section. What’s the rating? How quickly does the team respond to customer complaints or inquiries?
3. Register Your Product
Let’s be honest. The life of a new parent is crazy, and many of us don’t have time to regularly check company websites for software upgrades.
The great news is, if you register your product, they’ll likely contact you about new security protocols and potential issues.
How Do I Keep My Monitor Safe After It’s Installed?
Safety and protection don’t stop at installation. It is an ongoing process of maintenance and monitoring, to ensure your devices stay up to date. Use these tips and follow the company’s advice about securing your device throughout its life.
1. Password Privacy
Password privacy is one of the basic foundations of data security. If someone gets the password to your home’s internal Wi-Fi network, they can do serious damage. Aunt Sylvia’s friends seem innocent, but trusting them with the Wi-Fi password to your baby’s live stream video feed may not be the best idea.
If Aunt Sylvia insists on giving her friends access to the baby by sharing your password, you can say, “I love that you’re so proud of our family. Safety is really important to us, so we don’t feel comfortable sharing the password. If you give me their email addresses, I would be happy to send them occasional photos and videos!”
2. Network Password Changes
When was the last time you changed the password for your home Wi-Fi network? It’s so easy to lose track of time, but make sure you regularly update the password. It will annoy friends that come to your house often, but it’s well worth the inconvenience.
3. Turn off the Device
When you aren’t using the monitor, turn it off, and keep a sticker over the camera. This shortens periods of vulnerability where hackers can get into the system and settle in. A side benefit: it will also help your wallet, and the planet, by saving energy!
4. Monitor for Unusual Activity
True stories about parents whose baby monitors have been hacked are straight out of a horror movie. Users have reported hearing voices and music through the monitor or seeing the camera turn its lens in real time. Creepy stuff.
Try to pay attention to your monitor. Did you have it focused on the toy area before, but it’s suddenly focused on baby’s crib? It can be a good idea to create regular habits with your monitor routine, so you’ll be more likely to notice any changes.
Additionally, smart monitors are known for the variety of alerts you can receive when baby cries. This includes an option for visual alerts with no noise. This is tempting when you’re watching a great movie, or if you’re on a work call, but it can also keep you from hearing signs of a hack.
The internet continues to change every aspect of our worlds and, thus, of parenting. Baby monitors are no exception.
And, while smart baby monitors are not for everyone, they certainly provide an exciting amount of freedom and knowledge for moms and dads everywhere.
If you decide that you want to buy a smart monitor, however, there are some safety precautions you should take. It’s a good idea to research the products you are seriously considering, and call the companies to find out more about their security protocols.
After the monitor is installed, set regular reminders on your phone to change passwords and check for software updates. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
Do you have a smart baby monitor? Share your tips for safe monitoring in the comments section below. If you have friends who want to learn more about what they can do to protect their baby monitors, please share our article on social media.