No one would deny the value and importance of using a good baby monitor. But are there any concerns parents should have, including potential security issues?
No parent can expect to be by their baby's side the whole time. You need your own space, you need to eat, relax, bathe, sleep. A good, well chosen baby monitor can help enormously, giving you an immediate heads up as soon as your baby starts to become unsettled or unhappy.
As any parent knows, it's usually a good deal easier to comfort and settle a baby who is merely whimpering than dealing with an all out lung bursting wail.
There are some fairly obvious concerns regarding monitors. For example, how do you know if the batteries are low, or whether your baby is simply being quiet? How do you know if your baby monitor receiver is out of range? And how do you know if your receiver unit is blasting out a loud wail if you're currently doing the vacuuming in the kitchen with the washing machine and oven extractor going?
There are of course solutions to all of these. Monitor manufacturers have designed solutions which help reassure parents in all three of these scenarios. From battery indicators to an alert if the unit is out of range, and light indicators which show visually what level of sound can be heard.
But there are some less obvious issues which it is important to be aware of. And they're not pleasant.
Many modern baby monitors have an excellent range. Most modern baby monitors are able to broadcast to up to a dozen houses in the neighbourhood. Many modern baby monitors are able to pick up audio from outside the baby's nursery, including adjacent rooms.
Are you starting to see where this is going?
Yes, it is true that some monitors are much more of a security risk than parents realise. I have personally known someone who was regularly able to hear their neighbours' telephone conversations as both houses had similar baby monitor systems installed, and on one occasion the telephone conversation which was overheard included bank details being given out. I have also known someone who discovered that a neighbour some houses away had regularly been able to pick up the video feed from her baby's nursery.
It's important to remember that a baby monitor is a broadcasting system, broadcasting high quality audio and video, and that the broadcast is not physically limited by the boundaries of your land.
How comfortable do you feel about anyone in the neighbourhood potentially being able to watch your baby, or see you as you go into the nursery? How comfortable do you feel about speaking on the phone, having a private conversation or even just singing to your baby suspecting that you were being heard or seen by any neighbour in the area?
Now, before you become scared off the idea of using a monitor let me make it perfectly clear that (i) I have never heard of, or come across any example where a baby monitor was used for any criminal activity, and (ii) not all monitors broadcast unsecured audio and video.
The thing to remember is that some baby monitors are more secure than others, and unless you live in the countryside about a mile from any neighbours, you may want to think carefully about choosing a monitor which offers you a more secured and reliable system.
There are two types of monitor which I would especially recommend if you're concerned about security. The first type is the monitor which uses DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology. This is the same technology used in cordless telephones. These digital audio baby monitors provide a much greater level of security, drastically reducing the possibility of any broadcast being intercepted.
The second type of monitor I would recommend is one which connects using your existing home wireless network. These include, but are not limited to smartphone baby monitors.
By using your home wireless network all broadcasts, both audio and video, are every bit as secure as the data on your computer network, and assuming that you have correctly configured the WPA/WEP security on your router, you'll be perfectly secure.
So in conclusion, I think it is essential that you are aware of the potential security issues regarding some monitors, and make your purchase choice based upon an understanding of both the risks, and the solutions.