Tuesday, April 30, 2013


We recently bought an IP cam for Callum's room to replace our dying (and crappy) video monitor. It's awesome in a ton of ways. In fact, we had wanted one when we originally got the video monitor, but at the time we didn't have iPhones or iPads and we wanted something portable, not something that required a laptop to check, so we went with the traditional monitor.

(My, how things have changed in just two years, huh?)

Anyway, the IP cam is amazing. It has awesome resolution. We can see when his eyes are open at night. We can see exactly where he is and what he is doing. It's just so much clearer than the video monitor, and therefore much more useful.

The video monitor--for us--wasn't really necessary when Callum was a baby. He was just a lump and there was nothing to see. But now that he's a toddler, it's incredibly useful. Especially now that he's not sleeping in a crib anymore and can get out of bed on his own, it's extremely helpful to be able to see what he's doing.

Which leads me to my next point... we are basically spying on him. Which we always have been doing, but it feels like more, somehow, because a) we can see a lot better, and b) he's older and has a bit more autonomy. I mean, it's not like he's doing private things that we shouldn't be watching. But it feels more invasive now than it did a year ago.

The biggest thing, though, that really makes me feel like Big Brother is that we can talk to him over the camera, and as far as I can tell, he thinks that the Voice that Issues Forth is some sort of Omniscient Being that Must Be Obeyed.

Which is great. GREAT. When he hops out of bed at naptime and romps around the room, we can get on the mic and tell him to get in bed and go to sleep... AND HE DOES. If we went to his room to tell him that, we would get nowhere. But over the camera? IMMEDIATE OBEDIENCE. It's a little scary, really.

Also, at first only Torsten talked over the camera mic, and then one time he wasn't there and I did it and Callum burst into tears. He obeyed and lay down in bed, but he was crying for Mommy. So I got on the mic again and told him that everything was OK and he didn't need to cry. And he stopped. And went to sleep. For two hours. It was magical.

BUT when I went into his room to get him up after his nap, the SECOND I cracked open the door to the room he pointed right at the camera and said "Woman! Woman not sleeping!"

So it clearly made an impression, is my point. And also, he definitely doesn't seem to understand that the voices coming over the mic are Mommy and Daddy and not some scary third-party observer/authority. Which seems to work in our favor, as far as getting him to do things that we would like him to do, like stop throwing a party and go to sleep. But it makes me feel bad! The poor kid! He seriously must feel like he's living in 1984. I actually tried to explain to him that it's just Mommy and Daddy talking to him, but I don't think he quite grasped that.

So! Effective parenting technique, apparently, but also maybe a little cruel? But it's not like I'm going to stop using it. Though that brings me to another question... when DO we stop using it? Not just the mic but the whole camera? I can only assume that over the next year or two, it will become even more interesting and useful to watch him on the camera. But at some point he WILL need privacy, or at least the awareness that he has a space to himself that isn't being monitored. And I'm starting to think that it may not be immediately obvious to us when we've reached that point.

What about you? People who use video monitors, when are you planning to stop? (Or when did you stop, if your kids are a little older?)


  1. We plan to stop using ours around when Eliza has butt autonomy. When she is basically potty trained, at least day trained, seems like a reasonable time to stop invading her privacy in general? Maybe?

    I think it depends on the kid, too - like a super mischievous kid might necessitate monitoring, whereas for E, it's 50% entertainment and 50% checking if she is awake, as opposed to making sure she hasn't climbed out the window or something.

    I don't know when kids start wanting privacy. At some point, that should be obvious, no?

  2. We bought the same thing to spy on our dog when he's home alone and he was terrified of the camera for about a week, especially if we would log-in and move it. He doesn't like the voice thing, but we don't really use it on him anyway.

    Our plan is to use it as a baby monitor as well once I have this little one in September. I'm obviously not even close to the point where I need to worry about privacy yet, but you raise a good question!

  3. Ren will be 4.5 in a few days, and I wouldn't use a camera on him at this point. I probably would have stopped for him by 3.5 because he was fully potty trained and sleeping fine. I don't think it would be creepy to use the camera longer, just unnecessary.

  4. I never had a video monitor- my youngest will be 6 this year, so the technology wasn't as inexpensive as it now is. I took the regular monitor our of the baby room at around a year.

    Creepy story- my daughter's friend's parents have a video monitor in her room, and she's 9 YEARS OLD. I don't allow my daughter to spend time at that house because it's just too strange for me.

  5. Your post is just.....awesome! I was laughing so hard. I see what you are saying about the voice coming from some other place/being, whatever he thinks it is and it being cruel. But, oh, what a great story!

    I think maybe by age 4.5 to 5 giving a little more privacy is fair. By then, kids know the rules, what's generally expected of them, and they are (usually) good sleepers by then. Potty trained and have stared into some sort of schooling. So, I think you safely have a few years before you need to start feeling "creepy" for watching him. And if he knows you are watching, and that it's just mommy & daddy, I think it's ok.

    I fully plan on using a video monitor for our new little one arriving in Sept. Didn't have it for my first two and think it would have been good.

  6. No clue. I have one that split screens up to four rooms. I could have two more kids and monitor them all :). I think we'll stop once he can wake himself up, open his door, and take himself to the bathroom or our room if something is wrong. Could be tomorrow. Could be in four years.

  7. Oh, this made me laugh. And also wish wistfully for a similar tool with which to command my own children (Silas! You are to stop playing Minecraft and get back to your math homework at once.)

    We never used monitors, either audio or visual, so I can't offer any feedback here. I'm of the mind that if it works, use it, though. At some point he'll figure out that it's just another arm of parental authority and thus open for testing.

  8. Oh, Callum! I love that he obeys the voice.

    Completely unrelated, there's a commercial out there for a phone (I think) featuring a red-headed boy growing up. The second boy (who is crying) reminds me so, so much of Callum (not because of the crying, though, just his overall looks). :)

  9. I want a video monitor-type setup for once this baby is born because he'll be sharing a room with James, and toddlers are tricky. I wouldn't feel weird about it until he expresses some real interest in privacy. So far that is not the case.

    For you mind if I ask for details about your setup? What kind of camera do you have, how hard was it to set up? I'm leaning toward IP camera because it seems cheaper/higher quality video/useful beyond when the kids are little.

  10. I want to know what kind you are using too!