Did you know you can use a Wi-Fi-enabled security camera, like the Nest Cam, as a video baby monitor? Imma let you finish, baby gear manufacturers, but Nest’s software and hardware are infinitely easier to use, and much nicer to look at, than the vast majority of dedicated baby monitors out there.
A live video feed allows you to see your kids while they’re sleeping—how else are you going to tell if Little Randy is yowling because he’s bored, or because he got his arm stuck in a crib slat? It also allows you to spend your rare, hard-earned date night sitting at a restaurant across from your co-parent, ignoring your appetizers as you remotely check on the baby every five minutes.
Of course, there are some disadvantages, too—namely, that a Nest Cam wasn’t quite designed for this function, and that Wi-Fi-enabled devices can be slightly less secure. But a few things will help protect your kid’s privacy from strangers, while still letting you gaze at their peaceful, sleeping little faces.
Home, Sweet Fortress
If you’re going to use any kind of smart home device—particularly one that collects a video feed as it is pointed at the most precious people in your life, during the hours when they are the most vulnerable—you need to make sure that your home wireless network is as secure as possible.
Changing your router name, your network name, and your network password won’t convert your home network into an impenetrable castle. But it will kick off dumdums like your neighbor’s roommate, who came over that one time and has been watching Netflix with your Wi-Fi ever since.
Don’t forget to activate WPA2 encryption protocols on your router. You may also want to set up a guest network to avoid disseminating your main password far and wide. And, depending on your budget, you might also want to consider a few upgrades, whether that means subscribing to a VPN service or purchasing a mesh system, which makes it easier to see which devices are on your network while distributing it farther throughout your house.
What’s In A Name
When people consider indoor security camera specs, ease of use, attractiveness, and a good view come to mind. But it’s also important to consider how well the company stores and protects the data it collects. Luckily, Nest is known for their rigorous security protocols, which include AES 128-bit encryption and Transport Layer Security (TLS) to connect to the cloud. Whatever, if it’s good enough for the NIST, it’s good enough for me.
If you’re not going with a Nest, make sure you pick a camera from a reputable manufacturer. There are a few other things you can do to put your best foot forward, security-wise. The first is to change your camera’s password to something that isn’t “1111111” or “iloveyousweeties.” Update the firmware regularly, and unplug the Nest when it’s not in use.
If you, your co-parent, or other caretakers have the Nest app on your phone, make sure that the app is updated as well. Log out of the app when you’re not using it, change the password regularly, and definitely protect your phone with a password or biometric security.
As a parent of young kids, the Nest Cam does have several drawbacks as a baby monitor. You can only listen to the live feed if the app is open on your phone. When my husband and I had a Wi-Fi baby monitor, we kept an old iPad plugged in and open to the app within our home.
If you don’t have an extra iPad or smartphone lying around, you could subscribe to Nest Aware for an additional fee per month. In addition to storing video and distinguishing activity zones, Nest Aware will send you push notifications when activity is detected in the room. However, I get so many push notifications that they’re easy to disregard. The buzz of a notification just doesn’t register as an alert that requires an instant response, the way the sound of crying does.
And finally, it’s also worth noting that the Nest Cam only works as a monitor as long as the app and your Wi-Fi are working. In the past several weeks alone, we’ve had experienced prolonged internet outages.
The Nest app does sometimes take a little long to load. This wasn’t an issue for my family, as our house is small enough that I can hear the kids in their room even when the monitor has cut out. But if waiting for the app to load gives you a panic attack, that might be something for you to consider.
Could You Take My Picture
Full disclosure: After testing different baby monitors, my spouse and I ultimately decided to go with an old-school audio-only monitor. Yes, they’re cheaper, relatively hack-proof, and good for traveling, but what really made up my mind was watching my toddler go to sleep one night. In the eerie night vision of the Wi-Fi camera, her pupils were white as they fixed on the camera’s lens, watching me watching her. If grown people can find it creepy to be watched while they’re sleeping, very young ones can too.
But if your little one is really young—and if it’s really important for you to visually confirm if his arm has fallen off (just kidding, new parents! Arms don’t do that)—the Nest cam is a decent choice. The picture quality is excellent. Plus, If you have multiple children in different rooms, it’s easy to toggle back and forth between the video feeds, and you can also use an audio RF monitor as backup.
Paying for Nest Aware might also be worth it because you can save images and footage of your baby sleeping. Besides being heartbreakingly adorable, this footage will also be useful when you’re putting together a montage for their wedding rehearsal dinner and you can include clips of them sleep-farting as infants. Privacy, schmivacy. As parents, it’s important to keep your priorities in line.