Baby Monitors

How to Choose a Baby Monitor for Safety

Sarah Davis

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We’ve finally managed to put together a baby monitor safety checklist to assist parents in keeping their little ones safe while using baby monitors. This guide is essential if you are looking for advice on how to pick a safe baby monitor.

When I recently attended the Childhood Injury Prevention Convention(PrevCon), one speaker mentioned the impact of continuous surveillance using baby monitors and how it can psychologically affect children. As I put together this guide on how to choose a baby monitor, I found it crucial to highlight the inclusion of monitors with VOX features as they help with eliminating the 24-hour continuous streaming common with a lot of brands.

I always knew VOX monitors were critical when it comes to reducing EMF radiation and increasing the battery life of baby monitors. The psychological side was new to me and that’s why we always try to incorporate emerging points of view as research evolves on various baby safety products.

As I put together this updated 2024 guide, I looked at several comprehensive guidelines on choosing a baby monitor but none of them seemed to really hit it on with how to specifically differentiate a safe monitoring brand from an unsafe one.

While I did find certain features recommended by various blogs, such as image or video quality, to be somewhat useful in choosing a monitor, most of them neglect to mention the crucial safety features that could potentially pose a safety risk for your baby.

In this article, I have put together a detailed guide for choosing a baby monitor with a detailed baby monitor safety checklist to assist you in picking safe baby monitors that you can rely on to enhance your baby’s safety rather than jeopardize it.

How to Choose a Baby Monitor: Safety Checklist

Go for wireless monitors and babyproof cords in the nursery:

Despite the prevalence of digital monitors that rely on non-wired communication technologies, most still require the use of adapters to power the primary units, particularly the camera. Baby monitor cameras equipped with advanced features like night vision, temperature sensors, and microphones must be powered by AC power and as batteries just can’t power them.

How dangerous are cords in baby safety?

Below is one story that highlights it.

A grieving mother from England tragically lost her 18-month-old daughter, who was strangled to death in her cot when a baby monitor cord became entangled around her neck. The parents were quoted as saying that they “thought they were doing the right thing by having a monitor in the bedroom.”

Certainly, the parents’ intention of acquiring the monitor was commendable. However, it is imperative to emphasize the significance of proper installation and maintenance.

AAP recommends that all electrical cords should be at least 3 feet away from your child’s reach. Here are some more tips to baby-proof the cords:

  • Ensure that all monitors and other electrical products, including wall-mounted ones, are inaccessible to your child by keeping cords out of their reach.
  • Position monitors and cords at least 3 feet away from cribs, bassinets, play yards, or any other safe sleep environment.
  • Avoid placing a monitor inside or on the edge of a crib.
  • Use cord covers for any exposed wires or cords
  • You can secure the cords to a wall with cord clips or ties but make sure your baby can’t get them out.

The wires connecting the camera to the AC outlet present a strangulation risk. To ensure safety, it is important to always adhere to the product’s safety instructions and make sure that the entire cord is out of reach of children.

Here is a full guide with 4 best ways to hide baby monitor cords.

I recently discovered highly innovative cord concealers that employ various techniques to hide cords in nurseries. My suggestion is to ensure that there is an outlet located at least 1 foot away from the desired placement of the baby camera. This will eliminate the need to run cords across the nursery, providing a cleaner and safer environment.

A very popular brand of outlet babyproofing is one by Safety Innovations. The brand features a double locking outlet box (top and bottom buttons) which requires two hands to open for baby safety. While adults can easily operate it, babies and toddlers will find it challenging.

If you have limited outlets and have to run the cords, make sure you use innovative ways to hide the cord that your infant or toddler won’t be able to get to. I like this white Self-Adhesive Power Cable Protector that works with any flooring and uses BPA-free silicone. Checking for BPA-free labels is vital because BPA is an endocrine disruptor and might be harmful to your child’s health.

Although wired monitors like D-Link Cameras are often praised for their security against hackers, I believe that dealing with cords is more troublesome and risky than simply opting for a hackproof monitor.

Tip: Don’t get a wired monitor and since most monitors require to be wired, make sure you use innovative cord concealers from US brands such as Safety Innovations above.

Get a hackproof baby monitor:

Hackproof monitors that guarantee 100% safety from hackers are those that utilize Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology. The monitor automatically hops from one frequency to another, making it challenging for hackers to intercept the signal.

Unfortunately, FHSS monitors are limited in range as they don’t rely on the internet and do not have smartphone apps. Check out Infant Optics DXR 8 Pro, our top recommendation for a non-Wi-Fi baby monitor that is hackproof.

If you must get a monitor that you can connect to your phone, you should learn of baby monitor hacking risk well. There are several unsafe Wi-Fi baby monitoring brands including Wyze(which we no longer recommend) that have very weak safety protocols including these 4 apps recently exposed.

Some Wi-Fi monitor brands utilize superior technologies such as face-covering alerts, cry-detection alerts, breathing monitoring, oxygen-level sensors, and sleep tracking. If you need to utilize a smart monitor, make sure you pick one with the following features;

  • Uses Advanced Encryption Standards(AES), at least AES 128-bit encryption for securing data transmissions. How about AES-256? Read more about baby monitor encryption here.
  • Require/prompt users to set up 2-factor authentication and regularly require users to update passwords for the monitor app.
  • Enable Wi-Fi Protected Access(WPA) 2 protocol. This is an advanced wireless security protocol that safeguards wifi networks against malicious attacks.
  • Comes with a secure server storage to encrypt data before being sent over the internet.
  • Have not been found to have weak security settings by independent CyberSecurity Reports

Check out our detailed guide on ways to secure your Wi-Fi baby monitor from hackers.

Get a Voice-activated Baby Monitor:

Get monitoring brands that have a ‘sleep-mode’ or ‘eco-mode’ or ‘VOX mode’ which enables you to limit the streaming of videos 24/7. With VOX monitors, you get to set the threshold of voice that you want the monitor to notify you. When your baby is quietly asleep, there is no need to see live videos throughout.

With a 24/7-streaming monitor, there is a continuous beam of electromagnetic radiation and some studies claim that long-term exposure to EMF radiation can have harmful effects on infants.

EMF is a type of non-ionizing radiation that is produced by electrical, wireless devices such as baby monitors. While no conclusive study links it to major health hazards, it’s advisable to take precautionary measures.

Using a VOX monitor is also good for your baby’s psychological development. Dr. Rebecca Schrag Hershberg, Ph.D., a mom of two and a clinical psychologist interviewed by Parent Magazine mentioned that “Your kid needs to feel safe and secure in their bed, in their home. And to what extent is having a monitor going to impede that developing sense of safety?”

She expressed the concern that continuous nighttime monitoring could potentially cause anxiety in children, as it prompts them to question their own safety. “Children may perceive that if their parents feel the need to observe them, then there must be potential dangers lurking in their beds,” she explained. You can read the story on Parents.com here.

We have detailed reviews of best sound-activated monitors here.

Go for Low-emission Baby Monitors:

While the FCC has set the Specific Absorption Rate(SAR) for emitted EMF by baby monitors here in the US at 4w/kg. In Europe, these standards dictate that the radiation levels should not exceed 2 W/kg for the head and torso, 4 W/kg for the limbs, and 0.08 W/kg for whole-body exposure.

One of the challenges in ensuring compliance with FCC standards is that monitor manufacturers are given the authority to self-report their emission level reports as a requirement to sell in the US market. However, self-reporting can introduce bias and undermine the accuracy of the reports.

These reports are public and you just have to search “SAR Exposure Report + Baby Monitor brand name+ PDF”. If you search “SAR Report Infant Optics PDF”, you’ll find this 50-page Report and on the 5th page, you’ll see a summary of the exposure limits as shown in the snapshot below;

Baby monitor safety checklist - Image showing a snapshot of SAR Exposure Report for Infant Optics

While you can’t rely entirely on these reports, get those with SAR not exceeding 2w/kg. You can also check EMF Radiation levels as tested by independent review sites such as Consumer Reports or BabyGearLab.

In most of our reviews, we now try to include the details of specific absorption rate figures to give families an understanding of the EMF risk associated with the monitor.

In my opinion, monitors sold in Europe are more secure in terms of EMF radiation levels as they have to pass thorough rigorous testing in more stringent and controlled testing environments.

Beware of brands that promote themselves as using “emf-reduction” technology to limit EMF radiation levels without providing credible evidence. Instead, focus on checking their self-reported SAR levels and, if possible, rely on data from independent testing organizations. Don’t be easily swayed by marketing catchwords. Stay informed and make informed decisions when it comes to protecting your baby from EMF radiation.

Check baby monitor battery safety:

Some baby monitors with handheld displays come with rechargeable batteries with different battery capacities. Get brands that have large-capacity batteries of at least 2000 mAh that won’t overheat and cause fire.

In addition to the risks of overheating and fire, batteries pose several other hazards. These include the potential for electrical shock from battery chargers, thermal burns, exposure to alkaline battery electrolytes, and the possibility of high-velocity ejection of internal battery components.

While the UK and the US’s CPSC have developed safety standards on batteries and electrical components, you’ll occasionally get brands with very poor track records. Here are US Standards.

Just this past year(2023), the Office of Product Safety and Standards recalled several brands of Philips-Avent Digital Video Baby Monitor that were available on Amazon for a long time(SCD620, SCD625, and SCD630, among other brands).

You can read the recall notice here which stated that the “product presents a risk of fire as the battery in the parent unit may overheat while the product is in use.”

Always check if a brand has been recalled in the past due to battery issues before purchasing their products.

When choosing a brand on Amazon, go to the Q&A section down on the monitor’s page and search ‘battery’. If you check reviews of these brands(now recalled) several customers had raised concerns about them and those who read the reviews avoided these unsafe battery-powered monitors.

Consider a baby monitor with a wall-mount option:

The safest place to mount your baby monitor camera is on a wall in a corner and near the ceiling. This position ensures that the cords are out of reach from the baby and the monitor itself is not reachable to the baby.  

Get a baby monitor that comes with wall wall-mounting option and avoid those that provide table-mounting options only. Table-mounting models essentially don’t come with any mounting options as they just advise that you place the camera on a flat surface.

There is another reason to get a monitor that you can mount on the wall.

Below is a chart showing the electric field of a baby monitor at varying distances

EMF should be one of your baby monitor checklist item - Image showing the Electric field of baby monitors which decreases with increase in distances

From the chart above(source), you can see that the electric field measured in volts per meter (V/m) decreases as the distance from the monitor increases. At around 25 centimeters, the electric field is over 8V/m and falls to around 4V/m when the monitor is placed 50 centimeters away. From the 1.5-meter mark(4.9 ft), the electric field falls to its lowest level of around 2.3V/m.

Research cited by Hellobaby reveals that digital wireless baby monitors when positioned within 3.2 feet (1 meter) of a baby’s crib, emit radiation levels comparable to those of a cell phone tower located 500 feet (150 meters) away.

This is why it is important to find a baby monitor that will give you the option for wall-mounting. According to expert recommendations for monitor placement, it is advised to keep monitors at a minimum distance of 6 feet / 1.8 meters from your baby. This safety distance is recommended to minimize exposure to electromagnetic radiation.

When getting a baby monitor, search for mounting options it offers by entering ‘wall mount’ on Amazon’s Q&A search bar and it will give you results disclosing if the brand can be mounted on the wall. If you’ve already purchased your monitor and realized that it doesn’t have a wall-mount option, consider getting a baby monitor wall-mount kit on Amazon such as this popular brand.

Get a dual-frequency monitor and avoid analog monitors:

If you want a Wi-Fi monitor, make sure it is dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) to reduce interference with other wireless devices in your home. This will also help prevent hacking into the monitor’s feed, as it will be on a separate frequency than most devices.

Top secure monitoring brands such as Nanit, Cubo Ai, and Miku allow you to switch between 2.4GHz frequency to 5 GHz frequency and vice versa depending on your network strength. This gives you more control over the monitor’s frequency and increases its security. We have reviewed dual-frequency Wi-Fi monitors here.

If your monitor is experiencing interference with other home devices such as Wi-Fi router which also uses 2.4GHz frequency, you can simply switch your monitor to 5GHz frequency and reduce the risk of interference.

Opt for digital baby monitors instead of analog ones operating at 900MHz frequency. Analog monitors can be easily intercepted by devices like cordless phones, walkie-talkies, and radio transmitters. It’s crucial to be aware of Van Eck phreaking, a prevalent form of espionage, where hackers exploit radio frequencies to eavesdrop on electronic devices.

If you currently own an analog monitor and wish to retain it, you may want to contemplate acquiring an eavesdrop detector. This device alerts you whenever an extraneous signal intercepts the transmissions from your monitor. Such detectors tend to be quite pricey though and highly recommend opting for a digital unit instead.

Considering that most monitors, including all analog models, wouldn’t qualify for FSA or HSA reimbursements, just get a digital monitor. Check our all FSA and HSA-approved baby monitors here.

Additional Baby Monitor Safety Tips:

  • Always read the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines before using a baby monitor.
  • Keep the monitor at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from your baby’s crib to minimize radiation exposure.
  • Avoid placing the monitor on or near other electronic devices such as TVs, routers, or microwaves as they can interfere with the signal.
  • Make sure to regularly check the batteries and replace them as needed to avoid malfunctions.
  • Do not place the monitor within reach of your baby, as they may grab it or pull on the cords, which can be hazardous.
  • If using a Wi-Fi-enabled baby monitor, make sure to secure your home network with a strong password to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Always keep an eye on your baby, even with the help of a monitor. It should not replace direct supervision from a caregiver.
  • Ensure that all cords and wires are kept away from your baby’s reach and properly secured to avoid accidental strangulation.
  • If using a video monitor, make sure the camera is securely mounted and cannot be easily knocked over by your baby.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect the monitor, especially if it has been used by multiple caregivers or in different environments.
  • Avoid using a baby monitor near water sources such as bathtubs or sinks to prevent electric shock.
  • If traveling with a portable baby monitor, make sure to pack it securely and avoid rough handling to prevent damage.
  • If using your Wi-Fi monitor away from home perhaps with hotel Wi-Fi, make sure to only use if if the Wi-Fi protocol uses WPA2 or WPA3. These are the most secure protocols for Wi-Fi.
  • Consider switching off your baby monitor when not in use.
  • Gradually reduce your reliance on the baby monitor once it becomes nonessential, typically after the first year when your little one is no longer at risk of SIDs. This shift in monitoring practices helps avoid potential psychological effects caused by constant surveillance.
  • In case of any issues or defects with your monitor, contact the manufacturer for proper troubleshooting or replacement options.

Final Word:

In conclusion, choosing the right baby monitor and properly positioning it is crucial for the safety and well-being of your child. Make sure to thoroughly research and consider potential hazards of both Wi-Fi and non-Wi-Fi monitors, such as electromagnetic radiation, before making a purchase.

Once you have selected a suitable monitor, take extra precautions by following recommended placement distances from your baby’s crib and considering wall-mounting options. Always prioritize the safety of your child, even if it means investing in additional accessories or opting for a different type of monitor.

By following this baby monitor safety checklist, you can ensure that your baby’s monitoring experience is not only convenient but also safe and secure. Enjoy peace of mind knowing that you have taken all necessary precautions to protect your little one.

FAQs

Cover Image Credit: Clark Cruz