Parenting? There's an app for that

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  March 18, 2010 10:04 AM

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I regularly sing the praises of my iPhone. I used it not only to call AAA after a car accident a couple of weeks ago, but also to take photos of the damage, find directions for the tow truck driver, and work on a blog post while waiting for the tow truck to arrive. I used it as a GPS on that long road trip, and to check my email while on the road. And I use it from time to time to amuse our youngest kids, who are 5 and 3 and  surprisingly good at navigating the device, even if I haven't done more than download the apps for them. As Globe Magazine staff writer Neil Swidey pointed out in his article, "Why an iPhone could actually be good for your 3-year-old," preschool-age kids "are the purest breed yet of natives to the wireless world where the rest of us are refugees." If done the right way, with the right limits, he wrote, a smart phone can do more than buy you a few minutes of peace -- it could help your child's development as well.

Smart phones have become more than a must-have accessory for parents; while there are plenty of entertaining games out there, there are also apps that are geared specifically for moms and dads who need a bit more help navigating and simplifying parenthood. And we're not just talking iPhones here -- there are plenty of parenting apps for Droids and Blackberrys, too.

I've taken a look at some of the newest apps around, and these are the ones that I think are most helpful.

Baby Monitor by CodeGoo. If you travel often with small children, this $4.99 app lets you leave the baby monitor at home. Fire up the application, and place your iPhone near your sleeping tot; if it detects noise, it'll call you at any phone number you designate, so you can listen in (and since you choose what number it calls, it has a virtually unlimited range).

iCurfew by Radical Parenting. Vanessa Van Petten wrote the book You're Grounded! -- a parenting guide from a teen's perspecitve -- when she was a teenager. Now 24, Van Petten runs Radical Parenting, a resource parents with a fantastic blog authored by herself and her crew of about 80 teenage writers. The beauty of this 99-cent iPhone and iPod Touch app is that it allows teens and parents to check in with one another; kids use the app to send their parents an email with their whereabouts, and parents can verify the real-time location through an uneditable link to Google Maps (so if your kid says she's at the movies, the map will show you if she's really at the movies). It can also be used to make pick-ups and drop-offs easier, since you can use it to send directions.

DadsZeal by TruAffinity Inc. A free app for the Verizon Android phone, DadsZone is an online community where dads can discuss anything they like with other dads, trading information, sharing photos, and offering support.

SymptomMD by Self Care Decisions. For $2.99, you can have a virtual pediatrician on call anytime via your iPhone or iPod Touch. It's more than a list of common ailments; SymptomMD offers specialized guides to help you decide what, if any, care is needed for a particular problem. The clinical protocals it draws from have been used by thousands of pediatricians and nurses.

Amber Parent and Amber Child by DroidOmics. This pair of apps for the Verizon Android allow you to keep track of you teens (as long as they have their phones with them, of course). Download the parent application ($4.99) to the parent's phone, and the child app ($4.99 more) to the teenager's phone, and the GPS tracking system shows the child's location on a map; if he or she strays outside the "geozone" designated by the parent, mom or dad gets an email alert.

Baby List by LovedByBaby. Overwhelmed by the very thought of leaving the house with your tiny baby in tow? This 99-cent iPhone app for new parents provides a checklist of everything you need for any kind of trip, whether you're going to the store for an hour or to Grandma's house for three days.

Text4baby. This technically isn't an application; it's a service from the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition that sends tips via text message to any type of mobile phone. Moms-to-be can register online or by texting BABY (or BEBE, for tips in Spanish) to 511411; you'll receive three tips a week throughout your pregnancy and up until your baby's first birthday. The messages are timed to various stages of pregancy and early childhood development and cover prenatal, maternal, and newborn health issues.

So, why turn to your cell phone instead of your friends, your family, or even your gut feelings?

Think of the apps as additional resources at your disposal 24/7. They're not meant to replace your friends and family (or your physician, for that matter) -- they're tools you can use to make navigating parenthood a little easier.

Do you use smart phone applications for parenting? Do they make your life easier -- or do you think that people are starting to rely on technology a little too much?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.








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23 comments so far...
  1. I just don't buy the necessity of iPhones. (Or any cell phone, really, but I am weird that way.) But I could fiddle with an application for 10 to check on my kids, or I could just poke my head in their bedroom door. Or hire a babysitter. Or trust that they're not going to quit breathing if I take my eyes off them for a second.

    I've seen moms, even before iPhones, who use the internet to drive themselves nuts. Checking up on every potential perceived threat to their kids. Obessively checking for recalls on everything. Reading every list of 'top ten things you never thought could kill your child'. Running every sniffle through WebMD to decide their kid had incurable cancer and probably ADHD to boot. But at least they occasionally had to get off the keyboard and interact with other people who could give them a reality check. Now you can carry around something to feed your parental paranoia 24/7. This is progress? Feeling like you are failing your kids unless they are under electronic surveilance at all times is progress?

    We don't need any more layers of electronic disconnection between us and our kids. We need to use some common sense. There's an app for that - it's called your brain.

    Posted by bms March 18, 10 12:34 PM
  1. I don't have a smartphone, and don't plan to get one any time soon. Other than the fact that I *do* find my cellphone to be a necessity (I work, and don't have reliable backups to help out when the kids get sick or hurt at school), I agree 100% with what BMS writes. Even if I did have a smartphone, I don't think I would bother with any of those apps or their ilk. Games to pass the time? Sure, but even those are far from necessary. I enjoy having conversations with my children when we're waiting at the dentist or whatever. Radical, I know.

    Posted by akmom March 18, 10 01:33 PM
  1. I really worry when it seems like we've gotten to a point where the first thing anyone thinks about when there is a delay is entertainment. I am not talking about 25 hour Amtrak rides. Yep, an occasional DVD helps with those (although we got through with only 1 DVD. The rest of the time we read and talked). But to not be able to wait 10 minutes at the dentist without a video game? That's just nuts. Kids need to learn patience and to entertain themselves. The earlier and longer we put electronic gadgets in front of them, the less they will learn this skill.

    Posted by BMS March 18, 10 04:24 PM
  1. BMS, that's an excellent point. But none of the apps I wrote about in this article were for entertaining children. What do you think about the applications out there that parents can use for information, support, or managing their responsibilities? Have we started to rely on gadgets for too many things, or does it make sense to make use of the technology that's out there? -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 18, 10 04:29 PM
  1. Lylah, I think that many people do rely on gadgets far too much. Parenting tips by text message? Give me a break! Parents are far better off making connections to actual humans - if they dont' have family and friends nearby, they can join a parenting group through the hospital or community organization. An app to tell you what to bring with you on a trip? Honestly, if someone is too dumb to figure that out, they shouldn't have kids. It's not rocket science. And I really don't like the idea of the 'nanny' apps.

    Posted by akmom March 18, 10 05:54 PM
  1. We have created an app meant to create a family time meal experience with cooking a meal, sharing activities and spiritual development called Family "round the Table by the LOGOS Ministry. It is meant to draw busy families together.

    Posted by Tom Beagan March 19, 10 09:13 AM
  1. I wish Apple would start marketing Healthcare Reform. Somehow they convince everyone they "must have" these gadgets. I can't imagine using any of these applications, not that I would ever pay for a smartphone or want the constant distraction. I think all our families would be much better off if we put the gadgets down and actually interacted with our family members.

    Posted by Jayne March 19, 10 11:19 AM
  1. Holier-than-thou Luddite comments on a Mommy Blog - brilliant irony ladies!

    From this techie dad's perspective - sure, smartphone apps can be overused crutches for some parents, but just because they're new doesn't make them evil.

    Location based apps in particular have a chance to really improve the way we parent - knowing when kids are where they say they are, or if the bus is late, or if your teen is speeding? Naturally these can all be used to fuel the helicopter parent, but at least in the case of the last example, could also save your kid's life if used properly.

    Personally, I'm most amazed by how quickly my two little boys learned to use my NexusOne - little kids are born unconsciously competent in all things technology. It's very cool - and they're the ones who will really use these as mature products - not the silly FaceBook AllStars and Twitterati from our generation...

    One correction to the author - the Android Market is open to all Android phones, not just the Verizon Droid.

    Posted by Peter March 19, 10 11:47 AM
  1. Peter, I don't think anyone said the apps were evil, and I'm far from a Luddite. I just think that many of the apps are over-the-top, and would fuel many people's tendencies to choose interacting with an app or the internet in lieu of interacting with other actual human beings.

    How often do teens really get in situations where we need a location-based app to save their lives? And is the answer really spending big bucks on smartphones for the whole family (plus the attendant data service costs) 'just in case'? I don't think so. My children are just hitting the age where they're allowed to go places on their own. I don't *WANT* to be obsessively checking a phone to see if they are where they say they are. I am happy for them to have cheap phones so they can call or text to stay in touch, particularly as the pay phone is a nearly-extinct beast - it's the modern equivalent of the quarter I kept in my shoe at their ages. I don't want them to turn into the obnoxious children who spend every waking second fiddling with their smartphones.

    Posted by akmom March 19, 10 12:12 PM
  1. Baby Monitor by CodeGoo. If you travel often with small children, this $4.99 app lets you leave the baby monitor at home. Fire up the application, and place your iPhone near your sleeping tot; if it detects noise, it'll call you at any phone number you designate, so you can listen in (and since you choose what number it calls, it has a virtually unlimited range).

    ===========================

    Yeah right............. Leave my 500.00 phone with a glass screen in the bed with a toddler?? Who was the genius that thought of that one?

    Posted by tictoc02660 March 19, 10 01:00 PM
  1. Thanks for commenting, tictoc02660, but many people travel with infants who are too small to roll over on their own, let alone reach out and grab an iPhone. This app works well for them. Like most things, apps aren't a one-size-fits-all solution for all consumers. -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 19, 10 01:31 PM
  1. I remember keeping a quarter in my shoe, too! And before that, a dime... -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 19, 10 01:33 PM
  1. You paid $500 for your phone? You totally got ripped off.

    Posted by Incred March 19, 10 01:44 PM
  1. I do fully admit - I am a very late adopter. I use the internet, but I don't do facebook, or twitter, I don't have a TV, a cell phone, cable, an iPod, or any kind of PDA. I am however an engineering professor. I use the latest classroom technology that I can find as a tool to teach my students. And that's just it - a tool. I would no more carry a cell phone around just in case than I would carry a hammer around just in case. I just don't come across a lot of situations where I need a . My life works just fine without it. I'm not saying no one should have these things. But I wonder how much is actual need, and how much is need that was manufactured by marketeers. I just don't like the idea that I am being manipulated by the media into 'requiring' some expensive thing that I can live fine without.

    Posted by bms March 19, 10 06:02 PM
  1. I have a G1, which is also a Google Phone with the Android OS.

    I can see how those apps will appeal to new parents or first time parents, but after doing this for almost a year and a half, none of those appeal to me.

    I think any of the ones that track your teen's phone may work once and once only. After that, they'll be smart enough to hand over their phone to a friend so that it will be wherever it's supposed to be. Just because your teen seems to be glued to their phone doesn't mean they wouldn't abandon it if there was a good reason (a date, etc) to.

    I think parents need to have more confidence, not more apps.

    Useful parenting apps would be something like a quick app where you could note which breast you started on first (I hate that whole rubber band or ribbon the bra thing), or you could chart diapers, or how much the baby ate. My child had some feeding issues, so I had to constantly text myself that sort of stuff so I could keep a spreadsheet to share with our doctors.

    Mostly I use my phone to show E youtube clips of Elmo

    Posted by C March 19, 10 06:32 PM
  1. The younger the child, the less they need cyber gadgets.... Give them clay, not computers! How about the negative effects of electromagnetic fields on a child's brain? I'm not placing my iphone near my sleeping tot, thank-you! Bad enough that I'm frying my own brain!

    Posted by LWD March 19, 10 10:13 PM
  1. The iPhones aren't actually supposed to be near children (or, sleeping people for that matter). http://www.ewg.org/cellphoneradiation/8-Safety-Tips

    Since reading the Environmental Working Group's studies, we try to keep the phones away from the kids (unless they're in airplane mode so not receiving information and hopefully less radiation). They don't speak on them anymore either. I think the recommendation is to have the phone more than five-feet away from where people are sleeping.

    Thanks, Beth. I'm surprised by how many people assume a baby monitor -- or a phone acting as a baby monitor -- should be placed right next to the sleeping child. Regular digital baby monitors use electromagnetic waves to transmit sound, too. Does anyone place them right up near the baby? -- LMA

    Posted by Beth March 21, 10 09:34 PM
  1. The negative comments surprise me. I believe Lylah is assuming the parents already have an iPhone or other smartphone. So, the only additional expense would be the apps, which are either moderately priced or free. In addition, she is suggesting apps that are largely for monitoring and information, not for childrens' actual use.

    However, there are edutainment apps for kids that are great, too. They're tailored to short attention spans, so there is no expectation the child be continually using the smartphone.

    Posted by Julia Gomez March 22, 10 02:10 AM
  1. Thank you for your comment, Julia. You're correct -- my point is that if a parent already has an iPhone or other smart phone (and plenty of people already do), why not make the most of it?

    I'm surprised by the number of people who have commented here or emailed me directly to scold me for urging people to buy expensive smart phones in order to use a single application. That's like buying an expensive stereo just to play a single CD. Who does that? Or those who feel that using your phone to access information makes you a bad parent. How is looking up a symptom using a application any worse than calling your pediatrician after hours or doing a Google search from your home computer?
    -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 22, 10 08:40 AM
  1. Thanks for commenting, LWD, but it seems you didn't notice that this post was about applications that are resources for parents, not entertainment for kids.

    Also: One generally doesn't place any sort of baby monitor within reach of the baby, and certainly not right next to his or her head. And it's worth noting that regular, digital baby monitors use electromagnetic waves to transmit sound, too. -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 22, 10 08:46 AM
  1. I like gadgets. I love the idea of smart phones and location-based services. I can only talk as someone with 2 young kids (15 mo & 4) and conclude that an iphone/whatever doesn't enrich my life commensurate with $360 yearly service.

    With young kids you pretty much have to plan your day out before you leave the house. You're not going to spontaneously go to another museum or whatnot because you have to keep on schedule. As a portable video player/gps/camera/etc.. that's very cool. I like the idea of having only 1 device. But it's just too expensive.

    Most importantly, I sit in-front of a computer for 8 hours a day. I get to be online at home after the kids are asleep. On the weekends I don't need a distraction or extra stimulation while we're on the playground. My kids get my 100%.

    Posted by hortron March 22, 10 11:28 AM
  1. Honestly, I think that looking up symptoms on Google is pretty darn stupid, too. It's way too easy to become convinced that your child (or you) have some awful disease, when the reality is that it's something incredibly minor. The difference between googling or using an app and speaking to the pediatrician is that the pediatrician can ask better questions than the apps (web-based or not) do, and can more effectively weed out the unlikely diagnoses.

    If people want to waste money on dumb apps, that's their prerogative. I still haven't seen a convincing argument for buying a smartphone for a teenager, which is the only way that the various monitoring applications would work. And even assuming they have a smartphone for whatever reason, do you really think that a teen who's determined to break the rules won't find a way to work around the app on their phone??

    I do think that of the whole lot, the baby monitor application is the only one I would ever consider using (if I had young babies again, which isn't in the cards). There were many times when we were traveling and wished we had brought a baby monitor, and had we had a smartphone and this app, it would have been useful.

    Posted by akmom March 22, 10 01:12 PM
  1. Cub-Cal Baby Tracker by Nest & Grow is an Android app for keeping track of your baby's daily routine. You can log activities as they are underway or schedule recurring activities in advance. Quickly check items off as they happen and enter times only if they vary from what was scheduled. After a few days of logging you can review your baby's routine with the timeline.

    Log sleep, nursing, bottles, meals, diapers, baths, vitamins, medicine, reflux, walks, books, playtime and more. You can also set alerts and email your schedule.

    http://www.cub-cal.com

    Posted by nestandgrow March 30, 10 01:59 PM
 
23 comments so far...
  1. I just don't buy the necessity of iPhones. (Or any cell phone, really, but I am weird that way.) But I could fiddle with an application for 10 to check on my kids, or I could just poke my head in their bedroom door. Or hire a babysitter. Or trust that they're not going to quit breathing if I take my eyes off them for a second.

    I've seen moms, even before iPhones, who use the internet to drive themselves nuts. Checking up on every potential perceived threat to their kids. Obessively checking for recalls on everything. Reading every list of 'top ten things you never thought could kill your child'. Running every sniffle through WebMD to decide their kid had incurable cancer and probably ADHD to boot. But at least they occasionally had to get off the keyboard and interact with other people who could give them a reality check. Now you can carry around something to feed your parental paranoia 24/7. This is progress? Feeling like you are failing your kids unless they are under electronic surveilance at all times is progress?

    We don't need any more layers of electronic disconnection between us and our kids. We need to use some common sense. There's an app for that - it's called your brain.

    Posted by bms March 18, 10 12:34 PM
  1. I don't have a smartphone, and don't plan to get one any time soon. Other than the fact that I *do* find my cellphone to be a necessity (I work, and don't have reliable backups to help out when the kids get sick or hurt at school), I agree 100% with what BMS writes. Even if I did have a smartphone, I don't think I would bother with any of those apps or their ilk. Games to pass the time? Sure, but even those are far from necessary. I enjoy having conversations with my children when we're waiting at the dentist or whatever. Radical, I know.

    Posted by akmom March 18, 10 01:33 PM
  1. I really worry when it seems like we've gotten to a point where the first thing anyone thinks about when there is a delay is entertainment. I am not talking about 25 hour Amtrak rides. Yep, an occasional DVD helps with those (although we got through with only 1 DVD. The rest of the time we read and talked). But to not be able to wait 10 minutes at the dentist without a video game? That's just nuts. Kids need to learn patience and to entertain themselves. The earlier and longer we put electronic gadgets in front of them, the less they will learn this skill.

    Posted by BMS March 18, 10 04:24 PM
  1. BMS, that's an excellent point. But none of the apps I wrote about in this article were for entertaining children. What do you think about the applications out there that parents can use for information, support, or managing their responsibilities? Have we started to rely on gadgets for too many things, or does it make sense to make use of the technology that's out there? -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 18, 10 04:29 PM
  1. Lylah, I think that many people do rely on gadgets far too much. Parenting tips by text message? Give me a break! Parents are far better off making connections to actual humans - if they dont' have family and friends nearby, they can join a parenting group through the hospital or community organization. An app to tell you what to bring with you on a trip? Honestly, if someone is too dumb to figure that out, they shouldn't have kids. It's not rocket science. And I really don't like the idea of the 'nanny' apps.

    Posted by akmom March 18, 10 05:54 PM
  1. We have created an app meant to create a family time meal experience with cooking a meal, sharing activities and spiritual development called Family "round the Table by the LOGOS Ministry. It is meant to draw busy families together.

    Posted by Tom Beagan March 19, 10 09:13 AM
  1. I wish Apple would start marketing Healthcare Reform. Somehow they convince everyone they "must have" these gadgets. I can't imagine using any of these applications, not that I would ever pay for a smartphone or want the constant distraction. I think all our families would be much better off if we put the gadgets down and actually interacted with our family members.

    Posted by Jayne March 19, 10 11:19 AM
  1. Holier-than-thou Luddite comments on a Mommy Blog - brilliant irony ladies!

    From this techie dad's perspective - sure, smartphone apps can be overused crutches for some parents, but just because they're new doesn't make them evil.

    Location based apps in particular have a chance to really improve the way we parent - knowing when kids are where they say they are, or if the bus is late, or if your teen is speeding? Naturally these can all be used to fuel the helicopter parent, but at least in the case of the last example, could also save your kid's life if used properly.

    Personally, I'm most amazed by how quickly my two little boys learned to use my NexusOne - little kids are born unconsciously competent in all things technology. It's very cool - and they're the ones who will really use these as mature products - not the silly FaceBook AllStars and Twitterati from our generation...

    One correction to the author - the Android Market is open to all Android phones, not just the Verizon Droid.

    Posted by Peter March 19, 10 11:47 AM
  1. Peter, I don't think anyone said the apps were evil, and I'm far from a Luddite. I just think that many of the apps are over-the-top, and would fuel many people's tendencies to choose interacting with an app or the internet in lieu of interacting with other actual human beings.

    How often do teens really get in situations where we need a location-based app to save their lives? And is the answer really spending big bucks on smartphones for the whole family (plus the attendant data service costs) 'just in case'? I don't think so. My children are just hitting the age where they're allowed to go places on their own. I don't *WANT* to be obsessively checking a phone to see if they are where they say they are. I am happy for them to have cheap phones so they can call or text to stay in touch, particularly as the pay phone is a nearly-extinct beast - it's the modern equivalent of the quarter I kept in my shoe at their ages. I don't want them to turn into the obnoxious children who spend every waking second fiddling with their smartphones.

    Posted by akmom March 19, 10 12:12 PM
  1. Baby Monitor by CodeGoo. If you travel often with small children, this $4.99 app lets you leave the baby monitor at home. Fire up the application, and place your iPhone near your sleeping tot; if it detects noise, it'll call you at any phone number you designate, so you can listen in (and since you choose what number it calls, it has a virtually unlimited range).

    ===========================

    Yeah right............. Leave my 500.00 phone with a glass screen in the bed with a toddler?? Who was the genius that thought of that one?

    Posted by tictoc02660 March 19, 10 01:00 PM
  1. Thanks for commenting, tictoc02660, but many people travel with infants who are too small to roll over on their own, let alone reach out and grab an iPhone. This app works well for them. Like most things, apps aren't a one-size-fits-all solution for all consumers. -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 19, 10 01:31 PM
  1. I remember keeping a quarter in my shoe, too! And before that, a dime... -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 19, 10 01:33 PM
  1. You paid $500 for your phone? You totally got ripped off.

    Posted by Incred March 19, 10 01:44 PM
  1. I do fully admit - I am a very late adopter. I use the internet, but I don't do facebook, or twitter, I don't have a TV, a cell phone, cable, an iPod, or any kind of PDA. I am however an engineering professor. I use the latest classroom technology that I can find as a tool to teach my students. And that's just it - a tool. I would no more carry a cell phone around just in case than I would carry a hammer around just in case. I just don't come across a lot of situations where I need a . My life works just fine without it. I'm not saying no one should have these things. But I wonder how much is actual need, and how much is need that was manufactured by marketeers. I just don't like the idea that I am being manipulated by the media into 'requiring' some expensive thing that I can live fine without.

    Posted by bms March 19, 10 06:02 PM
  1. I have a G1, which is also a Google Phone with the Android OS.

    I can see how those apps will appeal to new parents or first time parents, but after doing this for almost a year and a half, none of those appeal to me.

    I think any of the ones that track your teen's phone may work once and once only. After that, they'll be smart enough to hand over their phone to a friend so that it will be wherever it's supposed to be. Just because your teen seems to be glued to their phone doesn't mean they wouldn't abandon it if there was a good reason (a date, etc) to.

    I think parents need to have more confidence, not more apps.

    Useful parenting apps would be something like a quick app where you could note which breast you started on first (I hate that whole rubber band or ribbon the bra thing), or you could chart diapers, or how much the baby ate. My child had some feeding issues, so I had to constantly text myself that sort of stuff so I could keep a spreadsheet to share with our doctors.

    Mostly I use my phone to show E youtube clips of Elmo

    Posted by C March 19, 10 06:32 PM
  1. The younger the child, the less they need cyber gadgets.... Give them clay, not computers! How about the negative effects of electromagnetic fields on a child's brain? I'm not placing my iphone near my sleeping tot, thank-you! Bad enough that I'm frying my own brain!

    Posted by LWD March 19, 10 10:13 PM
  1. The iPhones aren't actually supposed to be near children (or, sleeping people for that matter). http://www.ewg.org/cellphoneradiation/8-Safety-Tips

    Since reading the Environmental Working Group's studies, we try to keep the phones away from the kids (unless they're in airplane mode so not receiving information and hopefully less radiation). They don't speak on them anymore either. I think the recommendation is to have the phone more than five-feet away from where people are sleeping.

    Thanks, Beth. I'm surprised by how many people assume a baby monitor -- or a phone acting as a baby monitor -- should be placed right next to the sleeping child. Regular digital baby monitors use electromagnetic waves to transmit sound, too. Does anyone place them right up near the baby? -- LMA

    Posted by Beth March 21, 10 09:34 PM
  1. The negative comments surprise me. I believe Lylah is assuming the parents already have an iPhone or other smartphone. So, the only additional expense would be the apps, which are either moderately priced or free. In addition, she is suggesting apps that are largely for monitoring and information, not for childrens' actual use.

    However, there are edutainment apps for kids that are great, too. They're tailored to short attention spans, so there is no expectation the child be continually using the smartphone.

    Posted by Julia Gomez March 22, 10 02:10 AM
  1. Thank you for your comment, Julia. You're correct -- my point is that if a parent already has an iPhone or other smart phone (and plenty of people already do), why not make the most of it?

    I'm surprised by the number of people who have commented here or emailed me directly to scold me for urging people to buy expensive smart phones in order to use a single application. That's like buying an expensive stereo just to play a single CD. Who does that? Or those who feel that using your phone to access information makes you a bad parent. How is looking up a symptom using a application any worse than calling your pediatrician after hours or doing a Google search from your home computer?
    -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 22, 10 08:40 AM
  1. Thanks for commenting, LWD, but it seems you didn't notice that this post was about applications that are resources for parents, not entertainment for kids.

    Also: One generally doesn't place any sort of baby monitor within reach of the baby, and certainly not right next to his or her head. And it's worth noting that regular, digital baby monitors use electromagnetic waves to transmit sound, too. -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 22, 10 08:46 AM
  1. I like gadgets. I love the idea of smart phones and location-based services. I can only talk as someone with 2 young kids (15 mo & 4) and conclude that an iphone/whatever doesn't enrich my life commensurate with $360 yearly service.

    With young kids you pretty much have to plan your day out before you leave the house. You're not going to spontaneously go to another museum or whatnot because you have to keep on schedule. As a portable video player/gps/camera/etc.. that's very cool. I like the idea of having only 1 device. But it's just too expensive.

    Most importantly, I sit in-front of a computer for 8 hours a day. I get to be online at home after the kids are asleep. On the weekends I don't need a distraction or extra stimulation while we're on the playground. My kids get my 100%.

    Posted by hortron March 22, 10 11:28 AM
  1. Honestly, I think that looking up symptoms on Google is pretty darn stupid, too. It's way too easy to become convinced that your child (or you) have some awful disease, when the reality is that it's something incredibly minor. The difference between googling or using an app and speaking to the pediatrician is that the pediatrician can ask better questions than the apps (web-based or not) do, and can more effectively weed out the unlikely diagnoses.

    If people want to waste money on dumb apps, that's their prerogative. I still haven't seen a convincing argument for buying a smartphone for a teenager, which is the only way that the various monitoring applications would work. And even assuming they have a smartphone for whatever reason, do you really think that a teen who's determined to break the rules won't find a way to work around the app on their phone??

    I do think that of the whole lot, the baby monitor application is the only one I would ever consider using (if I had young babies again, which isn't in the cards). There were many times when we were traveling and wished we had brought a baby monitor, and had we had a smartphone and this app, it would have been useful.

    Posted by akmom March 22, 10 01:12 PM
  1. Cub-Cal Baby Tracker by Nest & Grow is an Android app for keeping track of your baby's daily routine. You can log activities as they are underway or schedule recurring activities in advance. Quickly check items off as they happen and enter times only if they vary from what was scheduled. After a few days of logging you can review your baby's routine with the timeline.

    Log sleep, nursing, bottles, meals, diapers, baths, vitamins, medicine, reflux, walks, books, playtime and more. You can also set alerts and email your schedule.

    http://www.cub-cal.com

    Posted by nestandgrow March 30, 10 01:59 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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