The Proper Use of Baby Monitors, According to the Experts

Concerns about potential dangers, like burglars, carbon monoxide, fires, SIDS, unsuitable cribs for babies, or even reluctant raccoons, can keep any parent awake at night. While some fears may seem irrational, it’s the safety of my girls that matters above all. My children, now 4 and 2, sleep under the vigilant eye of a monitor, emphasizing the proper use of baby monitors in our household. These devices offer me the peace of mind to know that my little ones are safe when they sleep.

Most parents stop using a baby monitor much sooner than I do, but I can’t seem to bring myself to take them out of my kids’ rooms. I’ve made it a habit to wake up every two hours to check on my girls and make sure their monitors are working.

Here’s my reality: My wife sleeps happily all night, but I wake up with every little bang and squeak from the monitor. I get out of bed, check all the main points of entry, listen for any strange noises, and then go back to bed. When my clock goes off in the morning, I move like a zombie through my morning routine.

Experts say that I should stop watching my kids every night at some point. Both of us will benefit from it.

Too much use of baby monitors can be bad.

It makes sense for parents to be worried. We’re concerned about the well-being of our children. But if we do too much, it can hurt our kids in the long run. “Your child needs to feel safe and protected in their bed and their home. Rebecca Schrag Hershberg, Ph.D. clinical psychologist, asks, “How much is having a monitor going to get in the way of that growing sense of safety?”

Children constantly watched at night may even start worrying about their own safety, which can cause nervousness. Dr. Hershberg says, “Kids think, ‘It can’t be safe if my parents need to watch me, so bad things must happen in my bed.'”

Not only are they watching, but they are also getting in the way. I want to run to help my girls when I hear them calling out. One night this week, I went into two different rooms, took out, and put back an elephant binky and a sloth stuffy. Jennifer Bronsnick, MSW, LCSW, a licensed anxiety treatment expert, thinks that my quick response to their early morning calls may make it harder for them to calm themselves, which is an important way to deal with stress.

“If a parent is the only person who can make a child feel better, that’s how kids get anxiety disorders,” says Bronsnick. Parents should ask themselves, “Am I doing this because I need to know what’s happening in the room for safety reasons? Or is this actually making me feel more worried and not making them any safer than if they weren’t being watched?”

Experts say it’s important for parents like me to take a step back and learn how to deal with things without constantly watching over their kids because these habits can stick with them as they grow up. Gary T. Marx, Ph.D., an MIT professor emeritus who has written and spoken a lot about monitoring, says that it often doesn’t stop with baby monitors. Because of their own fears, parents may keep watching their kids’ phones and other devices or even use an app to see where their kids are driving. “While most parents have excellent intentions, these tools prey on their feelings of guilt,” says Dr. Marx. “If you don’t do this, your child might start using drugs or driving too fast.” Sometimes, parents need to check a child’s device if they think the child is in danger, but they shouldn’t cross that line without a good reason.

When to No Longer Use a Baby Monitor

When you should set up a tracking system in your home and when you should turn it off for good, depending on your situation. Some babies, especially those with health problems, may need to be watched more closely and for a longer time. Parents who don’t sleep on the same floor as their children might want to be able to hear what’s going on the children’s floor. But as kids get bigger and take on more responsibility, their need to know what’s going on changes. Dr. Hershberg suggests there may come a time when parents should stop using a baby monitor, while he acknowledges that there is no hard and fast rule on the matter.

Dr. Hershberg says that a child can show that they are upset, have a sense of their own space, and be private when they are between the ages of 3 and 5. “But I have no problem with what you said before. And 5, based on all these other things, seems a little late.”

Brunswick didn’t use a baby monitor for her kids, but she says that parents who do use them do so in steps. “Perhaps you have the alert sound set to be loud until they’re 1.” Then you turn off the sound at 1. “Either turn it off or change it so it doesn’t go off as often,” says Bronsnick. This can make it easy for parents to stop using a baby monitor when the time is right.

Getting out from under the baby monitors.

Tonight, I’m going to do what they said. I’ll keep an eye on my 2-year-old, but I won’t always keep an eye on my 4-year-old. If I need to check on her, I can leave the camera in her room, but it won’t send me a message every time she coughs. In a few months, I’ll take the camera out of her room and just keep an eye on my 2-year-old until she and I are both ready for the next step.

My wife and I live one floor above them. I’m sure I’ll have a few nights when I can’t sleep. But if I want my girls to learn how to calm themselves down without my help, I should do the same, at least inside. When I’m outside, I have a cycle of Ring cams ready to catch any sign of those stubborn raccoons.

Meaningful articles you might like: How to Monitor Your Child’s Meals, Diapers, and Sleep, How to Transform Your Cellphone into a Baby Monitor, Is a SIDS Monitor Necessary For Your Baby?