online security

IN THE NEWS: Your Baby Monitor Can Be Hacked

by Samantha on August 1, 2015

Who's listening to your baby? Parents urged to take precautions with monitor technology



Who’s listening to your baby?

Are you safe? Is your baby safe?

The intersection of technology and parenting continues to expand as we increasingly rely on digital tools to make our roles as parents easier. We use tech more than ever to live our daily lives, from watching our babies to entertaining them; from reading to our kids to monitoring them (texting and cell phones). It all seems great, right? Granted, the convenience provided by technology can’t be denied, but there is a dark side to its usage as well.

As hacking becomes more commonplace in our daily lives, the instances of our digital tools being compromised will also increase. We’ve seen a rise of incidents where personal information has been hacked via email, cell phones and cloud accounts, but did anyone really anticipate that baby monitors would be a target too?

It’s scary to think that our most precious assets could be open to being spied on, secretly viewed, spoken to by strangers, or worse.

I recently provided my thoughts on this disturbing trend in an interview on Global News. You can watch the full segment below. There are also some simple tips that parents can follow to make sure that their babies remain safe and secure.

What you do to avoid hacking via baby monitors or similar devices:

1) Educate Yourself - Make sure that you fully understand the technology that you’re using, especially in their children’s rooms.

2) Err on the Side of Caution - When in doubt, don’t. If you have any concerns or misgivings about the technology behind any particular device, don’t use it until you are sure about it’s security, or chose another option altogether.

3) Choose a Secure Password - Don’t make the password for your device too easy. Remember to use a login that is not easily-guessed, that is changed frequently, and that includes a non-sensical string of letters (both upper and lower case) and numbers. For more information on how to choose a secure password, visit this page: How to Create a Secure Password.

4) Limit the Use of Devices - The less amount of devices used to monitor our kids, the less likely hackers will be able to successfully gain access where they don’t belong.

Global News Segment - Baby Monitor Hacked!


What other tips do you have for parents who are concerned about being hacked? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Kids playing with iPhone

The great thing about the online world is that it brings people together who may have normally never met. At least that’s been my experience. An example of this is my fortunate connection with Meryl Neiman, founder of Playdate Planet.

I first had the opportunity to interact with Meryl via commentary that she added to an article that I had written for Huffington Post. From that point on, Meryl and I kept running into each other virtually; we ran in the same parenting circles, websites and social media channels, so I guess we were bound to interact. And that we did. It didn’t hurt that one of our mutually favorite topics - playdates - was the crux of our connection.

Since that time, I’ve had the pleasure of following Playdate Planet and continuing the discussion about not only playdates, but all things parenting-related. One of these topics is technology and kids. If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that the intersection of parenting and technology is an area that fascinates me more than others. As a matter of fact, so interested am I in this subject matter that I started an ongoing series on it: Parenting in the Digital Age.

Knowing this, Meryl reached out and requested an interview for her radio program. She wanted to discuss technology, social media, cell phones and related topics, within the context of parenting. Of course, I was game!

The full podcast can be found on iTunes and here, at the WebTalkRadio site. Have a listen and let me know what you think!

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Official Fight Club Poster

Remember “Fight Club?”

For all of us parents who had the chance to actually see a movie, in this instance, a blockbuster by Brad Pitt, what was the first rule?

The first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about fight club.

The same goes for parenting. The first rule of parenting is that you don’t talk about parenting. Why? Because, for the most part, people don’t care.

Yet meet any parent these days and sometimes one of the first things out of their collective mouths are stories about their little darlings. Now, don’t get me wrong: as a mother of millions, I certainly understand the need to commiserate, brag, complain and laud my child’s latest achievements over other parents who may or may not be so lucky to experience the same. I write a blog about parenting, for heaven’s sake! Rest assured that the irony of this post is not lost on me. I get it: I’m part of the problem. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to investigate the reasons behind our constant need to share our child’s lives with others. How much is too much? How much should we really be saying about our kids?

In this age of oversharing, social media and immediate distribution of your child’s first visit from the tooth fairy, are we going a bit too far? “Parenting” has become a sport of sorts, has it not? I mean, really: it certainly has some of the same attributes. To wit:

- A competitive nature (“My son just qualified the national spelling bee competition.”)

- The desire to “win” (Consider the amount of money spent by “hockey parents,” “tennis parents” and similar)

- A “Code of Conduct” (Often unwritten but expected nonetheless. Examples? Just think playdate reciprocity expectations)

- It’s a “Spectator Sport” (Perfect examples: holiday concerts, music recitals and spelling bees)

- Doping and drugs  (Consider the number of Advils taken by any parent of small kids ;))

Of course there’s the downside of parenting, the parts that parents are often reluctant to share:

- Cheating (Your child has been caught and suspended for her behavior - not something you really want to announce via Facebook)

- Expense (Think college fund, university and various extra-curricular activities and lessons. You’re struggling to save, borrowing money to live and generally in the hole financially.)

- Violence (“He hit me!” And if a child has anger/violence/behavior issues, it’s often not readily shared.)

Competition, membership in a “team” environment/pursuit, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Parenting, as it seems, is indeed a sport, and not only  a contact sport but one that can leave us feeling used, bruised and abused. And now we’re going to tell everyone we know about our experiences through the immediacy of social media. What gives?

Shhhhh be quiet!

“Parenting,” by definition, involves the guidance and support of one’s child within all aspects of their growth.  As a result, the growing popularity of sport-related and extra-curricular activities has spawned not only a generation of overwrought, tired and overly-expended children, but one of extremely competitive and talkative parents as well. The world has become the verbal stage of those who have reproduced and we are all their (often) unwitting audiences. Social media avenues have changed the playing field and parents are routinely announcing the triumphs as well as the minutea of their kids’ lives. We’re in the midst of an information overload, but not of conventional sort. No, the information often consists of little Ethan’s first pee in the potty and sweet Madison’s antics at last’s night’s dinner. Sure: some care - aunts, grandparents and cousins are somewhat obliged to feel this way - yet most of us don’t. Yet that doesn’t stop the continual flow of information, images, YouTube clips and tweets that continue to appear in our various newsfeeds. We have become obsessed with “sharing” to the detriment of all of us, as in our efforts to provide the world with updates on the latest activities of our kids, we have managed to numb ourselves from truly seeing our children’s accomplishments that have merit and value. We’ve talked about parenting too much.

Don’t believe me? One just has to look at the popularity of such sites as STFUParents and the sentiments conveyed in this article in The Atlantic to realize that parental oversharing is very real, very annoying and very unethical to many. Yet we keep doing it, despite other’s requests that we cease and desist from sharing.

One has to wonder: what would life be like if we were given an edict that for one day - just one full day - that we were not able to speak about our kids? That’s right: not even utter their very-carefully chosen names for 24 hours? This means verbally (the old-fashioned way), as well as via any digital or online means. How would we survive? Would we survive? So accustomed are we to sharing every peep or pronouncement by our children that it wouldn’t be surprising that this simple exercise would likely be impossible for many. Most would admit that this is indeed the case; that being said, what does this fact say about us collectively? Have we become a society of oversharing, self-involved, and vicariously narcissistic sorts, who display our “wonderful” lives through the pursuits of our kids?

The answer is “yes,” and we need to stop.

The constant stream of updates from the toilet-training trenches, the images of Junior’s first soccer trophy and the blow-by-blow account of Emma’s first visit to the dentist are considered mundane and uneventful at the best of times. Other parents don’t really care. They may claim to find it interesting, but they really don’t. Accept this fact and move on. Only then will you be able to share your child’s important milestones with people who really care.

The first rule of parenting? Don’t talk about parenting. At least not to the extent that we have been talking. Think twice before you hit “post,” reflect for a few seconds before you “tweet” and quell the urge to upload that oh-so-cute picture of your little one when he’s about to do something that only his mother or father will truly find cute. If we all took this approach, perhaps we would then finally see the forest for the trees, cut down on the digital clutter and discern the really good status updates from the mundane.

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Technology in the classroom is here. Are you ready?

Can there really be “too much of a good thing?”

Apparently there can be, according to the educators in South Korea.

A recent Wall Street Journal article shed light on the country’s decision to cut back on the amount of in-class digital technology exposure that the students would receive. Originally, the South Koreans had proposed a mandate that would see all classrooms in the country completely digitized by 2015. While this plan may have started out well, the resulting effects on children who were under this educational regime appeared to be less positive than originally expected. Perhaps not surprisingly, the kids started to rely on the technology a bit too much, at least more than what was anticipated.

The resulting decision to cut back was based on the students’ (ironically) increasing reliance upon technology as well as the concern that the decrease in the use of physical objects such as textbooks would have an adverse effect on the children. Apparently, kids in this part of the world were becoming considerably addicted to the internet as well as their plethora of technology gadgets that were part of their day-to-day existence. For this reason, educators and others saw the need to cut back on the in-class digital tools.

If you think that the South Korean experiment with technology is not something that needs to be worried about because of the country’s distance to North America, think again. Florida has implemented a similar policy to the Asian country’s decision with a mandate that all paper-based textbooks be eliminated by 2015, at which time learning in schools would be completely technologically-based. It’s probably safe to say that Floridians are not the only educators with this in mind.

Technology in the classroom is here to stay, there is no doubt about this fact.

What now becomes the question is whether or not its presence is a good thing, and if so, to what degree?

Full disclosure: for the record, I support the use of technology in schools, as I believe that the advances in this area provide so much more opportunities to children than were previously available, even as recently as ten years ago. That being said, there is a fine line that exists between what is useful in the process of learning, and what is excessive and, in some instances, downright damaging.

Some areas that need to be considered when making the decision about the scale and amount of technology in classrooms include the following:

  • Access  - There must be an equal opportunity for access, both inside the classroom and out, in order for all children to get a fair shot at learning through specific technologies. For example, those with access to computers, the Internet, tablets such as iPads and similar tools will have more of an advantage regarding their home-time interaction via such technology than those children that do not have the same opportunities for learning
  • Special Needs - There needs to be a specific curriculum that is medically and scientifically proven and tested to support and facilitate learning and education for children with special needs
  • Degree - How much technology will be used and how often? Is there a consensus about the amount of learning that is done via tools such as iPads and otherwise, and how will this type of learning be integrated with more traditional learning tools, if at all?
  • Bricks and Mortar - Building on the above point, how do we feel about the idea that physical books and conventional learning tools are going the way of the Dodo? Are we ready to concede that the new educational and learning models don’t necessarily include physical textbooks, reading books, pencils or paper?
  • Cost - Depending on the particular school board, there exists the problem of unequal access to specific tools, which presents a number of issues and potential problems when determining who gets what. As well, the new model needs to be intensely reviewed to assure that a two-tiered system of  “haves” and “have nots” will not result in this new reality

The world has dramatically changed in the digital age and classrooms are just one area where the line has been drawn in the sand. This is particularly the case when one looks at the reactions and expectations of parents regarding both the curriculum that is being taught to their children, as well as the particular tools that are used to teach. In some schools, the idea of “BYOD” - Bring Your Own Device - is in full swing, to mixed reactions. As noted above, there exists the issue of accessibility and affordability for all students, but there also exists the ongoing concern about whether this type of learning is indeed a valid support to a child’s progress, as well as whether or not the conventional route of textbooks should be completely supplanted by digital technology.

So the lines have been drawn in the sand and the battle continues: the old guard that wants to protect the tried and true conventions that have delivered some of the most brilliant intellectual minds of yesteryear and today vs. those who believe that progress is best achieved using a “sure thing” - in this case, a textbook and/or otherwise. Ironically, one of the greatest minds of our time, Albert Einstein, was an outspoken opponent of technology. One of his most famous quotes illustrates exactly where he stood about the subject:
“Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.

It’s crystal clear upon which side of the fence this genius stood.

What side are you on?

Coming up next: Parenting in the Digital Age: Technology in the Classroom - Part 2

Previous Post: Parenting in the Digital Age: The Medium is the Message


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