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How Smart Phone Baby Monitors Are Affecting Infants

February 23, 2017
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As the world becomes increasingly dependent on technology, we are starting to see products that may do more harm than good. According to a new article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), smartphone-integrated baby monitors may not be ideal for observing a sleeping child. Undertaken by pediatrician and safety expert Dr. Christopher P. Bonafide of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and his colleagues, the article discusses the benefits of these products as they become increasingly available. The apps claim to test and sound alarms for various conditions such as tachycardia (fast resting heart rate), sleep apnea (breathing stops during sleep), bradycardia (slow heart rate) and oxygen desaturation (reduction of oxygen levels). This is all tested by sensors built into the baby’s clothes and diapers, which in turn measure heart rate, respiration and blood oxygen saturation. Ranging from $150 to $300, the baby monitors included in the study are Baby Vida, MonBaby, Owlet, Snuza Pico and Sproutling. These products take the aggressive approach to marketing toward newborn parents – implying it to be a necessity rather than a luxury. The monitors' authors say that their products alert parents when something is wrong, however, with something such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), it’s an unknown issue which they “cannot yet claim to help prevent.” As these monitors become more prominent, medical guidelines to help monitor newborns are still absent. The American Academy of Pediatrics state that these baby monitors “do not use home cardiorespiratory as a strategy to reduce the risk of SIDS,” clearly supporting the claim of a lack of evidence on this issue. With such important and potentially life-impacting issues hanging in the balance, it is difficult to discern whether these baby monitors are accurate. In a study conducted by Dr. Bonafide and his colleagues, they found a blood pressure app was revealed to falsely display normal blood pressure levels in 80 percent of the studies' participants. And even if they do output the correct data, Bondafide went on to say that “there is a serious question whether [they] are appropriate in monitoring healthy infants. A single abnormal reading may cause over diagnosis – an accurate detection that does not benefit a patient.” Along with this information, the researchers showed that healthy infants occasionally have oxygen desaturations with no clinical consequence. So, if an alarm was to sound, it may be all for nothing leading to unnecessary tests and checkups. With the aggressive marketing and emphasis placed on needing one of these baby monitors, the results do not support those claims. If anything, these products may cause self-doubt in parents and unnecessary fear and uncertainty.
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