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Surprising Science

Raising Children Better with Big Data

A host of new apps allows parents to digitally track every event in their newborn’s life. But will the data deluge make people better parents or just more obsessed with data points? 

What’s the Latest Development?

A series of new apps allows parents to chart the development of their newborn baby by recording every diaper change, burp and sniffle. Taken together, this data may give parents a better view of how their child is progressing and what patterns emerge along the way. “Forthcoming versions of baby-data apps are poised to bring even more dramatic change, allowing parents to compare their child with other children in great detail. In place of sidelong glances on the playground and calls to the pediatrician, mothers and fathers will have a new and more definitive way of answering an old question: Is my child normal?”

What’s the Big Idea?

But will the data deluge help relieve the nerves which accompany parenting’s early stages or make parents obsess over minute data points? The answer will likely depend on how skilled parents are at using the software to separate important variables, such as how nutrition affects sleep time. Monica Rogati, who is a new mother and professional data cruncher, says the new apps will help parents determine if their child is out of the ordinary. “He’s in the 50th percentile, he is perfectly normal.” Or “This is in the 99.9th percentile. Maybe this is not normal.” It will be a way, she says matter-of-factly, “to debug your baby for problems.” 

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