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New technology breeds data-obsessed parents

By Sarah Klein

Once upon a time, first-time parents flipped through age-old parenting manuals, followed the instructions of Dr. Spock, or sought advice from an ever-present mom. Today, parents barely even need to consult a pediatrician, as they track everything from growth and development to cries and heartbeats with websites, iPhone apps, and other gadgets.

Just like many of us have become fixated with social networking and micro-blogging, some parents have become addicted to technologically tracking their little ones. Among the popular iPhone apps for parents, they turn to standouts like Baby Monitor, which programs your phone to call another number when the baby starts crying, or Baby Tracker: Diapers, which helps parents record diaper changes and, yes, even the contents of diapers.

Online, they're turning to Trixie Tracker. There, parents can record hours of sleep, feedings, medicine doses and more, down to the exact number, minute, and ounce.

There are gadgets too, including devices that track how much parents talk to their children and educational toys that track how and when the child plays with them.

In a recent ABC News Article, experts suggested that even though such tracking can seem a little over the top, it isn't necessarily a bad thing. "As a pediatrician and researcher, I applaud anything that gets parents more interested in their child's development," said the University of Washington's Dimitri Christakis, who studies technology's effects on young children.

On the other hand, some parents can become so preoccupied with numbers and percentiles that they lose sight of the bigger picture.

"It's like when a child has a fever," said pediatrician Gwenn O'Keeffe, a member of the Council on Communications and Media at the American Association of Pediatrics. "I really don't care how high the fever is. What I care about is how does your child look? Are they zipping around the house with a 104-degree fever, or are they lying limp on the couch?"

In the end, most experts agree that it's a question of balance. There's nothing wrong with data-loving parents tracking their baby's progress, as long as they don't end up obsessing over the results!

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