Can wearable technology make us better parents or will it bring on a dark age of technology?

I have a confession to make. Despite being the founder of a technology company, I have yet to embrace wearable technology.

I’m not the only one.

We’re living in a connected, “always-on”, world where we spend one-third of our waking hours on smartphones.

Now it seems that wearable technology is going to help us make the transition to always being integrated with a world of technology. One in 10 people in the U.S. alone own a health tracker such as a Fitbit or an Apple Watch.

The situation is a little concerning. Already, the average smartphone user checks their device an average of 150 times a day. Once a user has information about their own bodily functions from wearable devices, this compulsive checking is likely to intensify.

Entrepreneurs in the wearable technology space are now turning their attention to children to help parents manage their children’s health.

Given the direction we seemed to be headed – amplifying our use of technology with wearable devices – the questions that come to mind for me is:

Will embracing wearable technology help us become better parents? Or are we unwittingly bringing about a dark age of technology where we’re slaves to our biology by integrating it with technology?

Two entrepreneurs are seeking to humanize technology

Given how high the stakes are, it’s always heartening to come across entrepreneurs who are seeking to create technology that serves humanity.

CJ Swamy and Jean Rintoul are two such entrepreneurs. Swamy is the CEO and Rintoul is the CPO of Good Parents, Inc, and they are getting ready to launch the first health and wellness tracker for kids. It’s called the Kiddo, and it’s a wearable device that tracks a full range of biometric data, with parents able to monitor the health of their kids via an app. They’ve just launched a crowdfunding campaign to turn this idea into reality.

The initial idea for the Kiddo came in November 2014 when Swamy took his older son for a hike. His son ended up being dehydrated and very unwell, with Swamy feeling like a terrible parent for being unable to prevent this from happening. The problem wasn’t complicated. It just required being able to track a standard set of biometric data to be able to find out early that his son was dehydrated.

After the hike Swamy’s brother in law alerted Swamy to the possibility of wearable technology being able to solve this problem. Yet there weren’t any wearable devices on the market.

Rintoul herself has been passionate about wearable technology for 10 years, and sees the potential to get continuous access to health data.

Both Swamy and Rintoul are extraordinarily passionate about their product and the potential of technology to improve the effectiveness of parenting. However, they are launching the Kiddo at a time when people are becoming increasingly concerned about the ubiquity of technology in our lives, with one in three parents expressing deeply held concerns about their children being surrounded by too much technology.

In true Ideapod style, we decided to put the Kiddo creators together with thought leaders to go a little deeper, exploring whether the Kiddo is helping enhance our humanity by making us better parents, or whether it was another app that was making us slaves to technology and therefore part of the problem.

On 16 May 2017, Kat Dunn facilitated a salon that explored the question:

How can wearable technology offer better insights into our kids’ well being?

The speakers included:

  • San Francisco-based advanced and specialty materials expert, CJ Swamy (CEO and Co-Founder of Good Parents, Inc)
  • San Francisco-based scientist and engineer, Jean Rintoul (Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder of Good Parents, Inc)
  • Nashville-based global consultant, Christine Owenell (CEO of Owenell Global Consulting); and
  • Sydney-based health & fitness coach, James Anderson (Founder of PHAT Solutions).

We wanted to explore whether some of the key ideas behind the making of the Kiddo would enhance our humanity. You can watch the salon in full below.

Parents are concerned there is too much technology

Nashville based global consultant Christine Owenell is the CEO of Owenell Consulting. She’s also a first time mother to Atlas who is 11 months old.

In the salon, Owenell said that while she’s used technology for her own benefit over many years, now that she’s a mother she’s becoming increasingly concerned about the extent to which we are integrating technology into our lives. She sees the opportunity to use technology to help us become better parents but also makes sure she limits the screen time her young son experiences and takes him regularly to the park to run around in bare feet.

This is where for me it got really interesting. The salon participants got engaged in a conversation about the ubiquity of electromagnetic and GPS signals as we create a world of connectivity. Is the Kiddo contributing to this problem?

Swamy acknowledged that radiation is a huge topic in the wearable technology space and something that Good Parents, Inc, is very focused on. GPS trackers emit similar levels of radiation as mobile phones, which is why the Kiddo doesn’t use GPS and instead uses bluetooth. This falls well inside the permissible levels of radiation according to the FCC.

Owenell was visibly relieved as she had entered the salon with this being one of her primary concerns.

James Anderson is a Sydney based health and fitness coach with a keen interest in the latest technologies to enhance people’s health.

He was particularly enthusiastic about the potential of the Kiddo for monitoring all of the biometric data of children.

With regards to the increased use of technology, Anderson had quite a pragmatic view: “Take the best, forget the rest.” Anderson was saying that technology is neutral and it’s really up to us in how we’re going to use it, and we need to embrace tools such as the Kiddo for what it can be provide in terms of monitoring the health of children to make our lives better.

Anderson was also excited about the ability to use the Kiddo engender positive habits in children. He said: “Healthier habits make happier lives.” The reason is that “what can be measured can be managed.”

The key point:

It’s up to us in how we use technology to make our lives better.

Creating a better future

Swamy heeded the call for using technology to create better lives: “Technology is a tool we can use to our advantage, and hopefully that’s what we’re doing.”

Rintoul echoed Swamy’s sentiments. She asked: “What if everyone on this planet could reach their full potential? Imagine we allowed every one of us to reach whatever we can dream of and what we want to be?”

Given the depth of thinking that has gone into the Kiddo, we’re anxiously awaiting its release to see the impact it will have on parenting in the age of technology.

It’s incredibly refreshing to meet two entrepreneurs who not only have great ideas about how technology can enhance our humanity, but also have the dedication to turn their ideas into reality.

To continue the conversation about the impact the Kiddo will have on our humanity, share your ideas at using the hash tag #kiddo. You can also support the Kiddo’s crowdfunding campaign.

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Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

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