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Today’s children are tech-savvy. Known as “Generation Z,” they’re kids who were born after the turn of the millenium and grew up in an internet-dominated world.
If you’ve currently got a Generation Z child living under your roof, how can you maximize smart home technology to improve their life? What smart home gadgets are child-centric?
In this article, I’m going to introduce you to five smart home gadgets and tricks for kids that you can deploy around your home.
1. Night Lights
Is your child constantly waking you up in the middle of the night because they’re scared of going to the bathroom in the dark? You can banish the darkness forever if you spend some time setting up a smart lighting system.
But you’ll require more than just lights; you’ll also need a central hub and smart door sensors. Philips Hue Lighting is an excellent choice for the lights, and you should consider Samsung SmartThings for the hub and sensors.
Install the lights along the hallway between the bedroom and the bathroom and attach the sensor to the bedroom door. Next, connect the lights to your hub and program them so they turn on automatically during the night whenever your child opens their bedroom door.
Make sure you’ve programmed them not to turn on at full brightness, and make sure you’ve also installed a light in the bathroom itself.
To save power, make them automatically turn off a few minutes after activating.
2. Create Geofences
Picture the scene. It’s summertime, and your young child is enjoying the weather and playing outside in the garden. You’re inside trying to relax, but you can’t. You’re too worried you kid will run off down the street to chase the ice cream truck or that a stranger will lure them away.
You need to geofence your property. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, this means setting up a virtual geographical boundary using GPS. Geofences are designed to let you know when people enter or leave these set boundaries using an app or specific device. Lots of smartphones have geofencing apps, but if your child is young, they probably don’t have a phone.
Check out Trax Play. It’s a GPS Tracker that clips onto a person’s waistband. You can make your own custom geofences, and you can create as many geofences as you want. For example, you could create one for the perimeter of both your home and your kid’s school.
Trax Play supports scheduling so you can make fences that are only active on certain days or at specific times. And if you buy a device for yourself, you can set up proximity sensors. These sensors ensure that you’ll automatically get an alert if your kid wanders off in a crowded place.
The devices come in either blue or pink.
3. Amazon Echo for Kids
Whether you think Amazon Alexa is sublime or stupid, it’s clear it’s not suitable for kids. It’s too easy for your little darlings to accidentally rack up huge bills, get access to mature content, or compromise their security.
However, given the proliferation of smart assistants in the last couple of years, it’s important for your kids to have exposure to the technology. They’ll need to be comfortable with it as they get older.
Try the Mattel Aristotle. It’s a fully functioning Amazon Echo, and Alexa works in exactly the same way — but there’s a twist. If you activate the device by saying “Aristotle” instead of “Alexa,” it enters a kid-friendly mode.
Here are a few of the features that make it so valuable:
- Recognizes when a baby wakes up and soothes them back to sleep with light shows and lullabies.
- Reads books to your child on demand.
- Provides foreign language lessons to older kids.
- Helps children with homework.
- Requires children to say “please” when asking for things.
- Offers learning games based on letters and numbers.
- Includes a wireless camera for use as a child monitor.
Mattel unveiled the product at CES 2017. It will go on sale in June 2017 and will cost around $300.
4. Smart Toys
I’m not going to focus on one specific toy. Suffice it to say, you’re going to have smart toys in your home whether you like it or not.
I’ll let Mr. Buckleitner explain:
In 2015 the connected toy was an outlier, in 2016 it was a trend, and in 2017 syncing your phone or tablet to a toy will be as common as putting AA batteries in.
— Warren Buckleitner, Editor of Children’s Technology Review
The toys don’t have to be creepy pseudo-rabbits that listen to your child’s every word. There are lots of educational toys out there that are secure and safe to use.
For example, Grush the Gaming Toothbrush has a Bluetooth sensor that lets you make sure your kids are giving their teeth a good scrub while also offering interactive brushing-based games to keep your child engaged.
Or what about the Mattel View-Master DLX VR? It utilizes Google Cardboard technology to transport your little one onto 360-degree wildlife safaris, trips aboard the space shuttle, or tours around a Smithsonian museum.
Lastly, check out CogniToys GreenDino. It’s powered by IBM’s Watson supercomputer and can help your kid learn to spell and count. It will automatically ramp up the difficulty of its lessons as your child improves.
5. Let a Robot Raise Your Kids
Kids need a lot of love and attention if you want them to mature into well-rounded adults. Sadly, after a long day at work, some of us don’t have the time or patience to deal with the erratic whims of a needy youngster.
In the olden days, you might have turned to a babysitter or grandparent so you could get some respite. Today, some robots can do it all for you.
Pepper is one example. It can read human emotions and adapt its behavior accordingly. If your kid is tired, Pepper will read it soothing stories, if your kid wants to play, Pepper can mirror their excitement. Pepper is currently on sale in Japan, with a worldwide rollout planned for mid-2017.
Another option is Aido, though you might have to wait a couple of years until it’s publically available, as it’s still being funded on Indiegogo. When ready, Aido will be able to teach your kids to count and spell though its thousands of interactive games and visual effects.
My last recommendation is Kuri. It’s available for pre-order and will be ready in time for Christmas 2017. The developers want the robot to feel like part of the family, and Kuri earned impressive reviews at CES 2017. The robot’s eyes follow you around a room, it will react to noises, and it even syncs with IFTTT. Interested? Kuri will set you back $699.
Smart Home Security
It doesn’t matter how useful some smart technology appears — you always need to keep your child’s online safety at the forefront of your mind.
There have been numerous stories of internet-connected toys secretly recording your child’s voice and logging their activities, and you’re already acutely aware of the dangers of letting your child have unfettered access to the web at large.
Before buying any tech for your kids, make sure you do your research about the product. Are there any worrying news stories online? Are the construction materials safe for a child? And does it offer sufficient parental controls?
Will You Raise Your Child in a Smart Home?
Are you raising your child in a 21st century smart home? I’d love to hear your story. What devices have you installed? How do you manage their security?
I’m also keen to hear from you if you’re giving kids’ smart home technology a wide berth. What makes you nervous about the devices? As always, you can leave your stories, thoughts, and opinions in the comments below.
Image Credits: 24Novembers/Shutterstock