It was while shopping for a present for my cousin’s newborn that I realized how pervasive the exploitation of parents’ insecurities for their young children is; a carpet that sends information on baby’s breathing, monitors with video camera, software that allows you to see what’s going on in your baby’s room from a distance… Wow!
Worrying about your child is perfectly normal. It is even a well-adapted parental reflex. In effect, wondering if your child is cold, if he has eaten enough, if he is in pain somewhere is not only healthy, but perfectly normal. An infant needs caring parents to develop in complete serenity. But several new technology companies offer services that go beyond the real needs of new parents and exploit their feelings of insecurity, which can turn into anxiety.
intolerance of uncertainty
Anxiety is a normal emotion that anyone can experience in circumstances that they consider threatening. For some parents, a situation tinged with uncertainty is a threatening situation. However, these parents are very at risk of developing an intolerance to uncertainty. They thus lose sight of what functional behaviors are, those that protect their child (e.g.: ensure that his bed is adequate or that he does not sleep with stuffed animals), compared to those that they develop to reduce their anxiety (eg, doing multiple checks or avoiding going out with their baby for fear that something will happen) .
However, technological objects usually fall into this last category, that is to say, behaviors that amplify our anxiety (e.g.: getting a baby heart monitor or a direct video link between the baby’s room and our smartphone). Unfortunately, when we use these technological tools for reassurance, we increase our intolerance of uncertainty. Indeed, the best way to manage our anxiety related to uncertainty is to accept that uncertainty will always exist and that it is better to learn to live with it than to try to get rid of it.
New technologies only give us the illusion of controlling uncertainty. Other behaviors adopted by anxious parents result in maintaining the anxiety rather than reducing it. For example, avoiding certain situations that are a source of anxiety or trying to control the entire environment in which their child evolves, such as daycare, rather than trusting the people in place.
Moreover, we must not forget that too much security kills the feeling of security, that is to say that relying too much on technology can lower a parent’s level of vigilance. Also, unfortunately, the certainty that our child is 100% safe is not possible in this world.
It is very important that we can question ourselves about our relationship to probabilities. For example, if I cross the street, I expose myself to a risk. I can reduce this risk by using a number of safe behaviors (looking both ways, crossing at traffic lights, etc.), but I will never achieve zero risk. The possibility of a speeder not obeying the red light is very real. Also, the only way to neutralize this risk and achieve zero risk is not to cross the street.
In the same way, life with a child involves risks and accepting these risks is important to allow the development of our child in a healthy environment.
In the meantime, I’m going to give my cousin an audio monitor, like the one I used with my three children, a monitor that allows us to hear the baby crying. Because with crying as a limit, we are in communication with baby, not in anticipation, even science fiction!
Updated May 6, 2022
Originally published on January 12, 2016
Photo : iStock/JodiJacobson