One of the worst nightmares of every parent of a baby is the occurrence of SIDS – sudden infant death syndrome. And the most common gadgets that parents buy to try and reduce the risk of SIDS occurring are wearable baby monitors – these monitors track a baby’s vital signs, movements and sleep and provide the parents with peace of mind. Or, do they? In a recent opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Society, pediatrician and safety expert Christopher Bonafide from the Children’s Hospital, Philadelphia, neonatologist Elizabeth Foglia of the University of Pennsylvania, and David Jamison, executive director of Health Services at the ECRI institute argue that, regardless of assurances by the companies that make these devices, baby monitors have not been proven to prevent SIDS and, in addition, they may even cause harm due to false alarms, resulting in trips to the emergency department which could lead to unnecessary lab tests and scans, as well as over-diagnoses. Indeed, the authors note that many healthy babies have temporary decreases in blood oxygen levels and around 80 percent of these are harmless.
The authors also noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) specifically says not to use home baby monitors to try and prevent SIDS. In its latest recommendation, the AAP states that “the use of cardiorespiratory monitors has not been documented to decrease the incidence of SIDS” and that “there are no data that other commercial devices that are designed to monitor infant vital signs reduce the risk of SIDS.”
Beware of hackers!
Nowadays, everything seems to be connected to the Internet and baby monitors are no exception. However, could poses a threat to you and your family as there are increasing reports of monitors being hacked and families being verbally harassed and terrorized. The main problem are Wi-Fi based webcam baby monitors which sometimes come with default usernames and passwords and, nowadays, thanks to the Internet, anyone can build a scanner for any device on the camera’s default port and access the device with the default credentials through the camera’s client software. This may sound complicated to the ordinary person but, judging by the increasing number of cyber-attacks, it is easier than it appears. Not only are baby monitors a portal into your family home by a complete stranger, they can also provide an entry point for the hacker to gain access to your bank account or steal your identity!
So what can you do? Firstly, you should install a solid firewall to safeguard your home network. In addition, you should create new and secure passwords for your Wi-Fi router, baby monitor webcam, and other Internet access points, making sure that the passwords for your baby monitor and Wi-Fi router are different. Make sure to change these passwords frequently. Finally, install security updates as soon as they become available. If you want to add another layer of security, you could also change your baby monitor’s default security settings and also the default port.