Big 'mother' watching you

Gadgets do what your mother always did


Zach Pope is all grown up but he still appreciates an occasional reminder from his mom.

"Stand up straight, open the door for girls, yes ma'am, yes sir," he explained.

One thing Pope does need a little help with is slowing down when he eats.

"Don't just, you know, inhale your food and be done in five minutes," Pope added.

Since his mom isn't always around for guidance, Pope likes using the HAPIfork. It has a sensor built in to let him know to slow down.

"It tracks how quickly you're eating and can give you a gentle warning if maybe you're gulping your food down," said CNET's Lindsey Turrentine.

Turrentine explains the HAPIfork is just one of many devices now designed to nudge you in the right direction.

"There's this entire new world of sensor-based technology, that can sort of mother you by using tiny sensors to track your movements, things that you do in your every day life," she said.

Another device called "Mother" tracks sensors that users can put anywhere.

"You could put a sensor on your child's backpack and it can tell you when your child walks in the door. You can put a sensor on a water glass and it can tell you how many sips of water you've taken throughout the day," said Turrentine.

Other gadgets remind you to sit up straight, to wear sunscreen based on the weather forecast, your skin type and hobbies, or track how often and how long you brush your teeth.

Turrentine explained, "It also can do things like track multiple brushes in the house so you can, say, create a race between your children, who's doing a better job brushing their teeth?"

Dr. Judith Stevens-Long is a professor of human development. She says these devices can be very motivational, but isn't quite convinced they're effective.

"If your phone tells you to stand up straight and you're not really motivated to make an improvement, you're not going to do it," she said.

Stevens-Long points out,  unlike your real-life mom, this digital mothering is easy to tune out once the novelty wears off.  

"You get tired of it.  It can be annoying," she said. "You turn it off when you don't want to do it."

Another issue could be privacy. Remember, if you input information online, you should check out the company's privacy policy.

"Just make sure that you read the agreements carefully, and if you're really paranoid about being hacked, don't use them," said Turrentine.

Pope isn't concerned about the safety of his information.  He says he sees a change in himself already and is okay with the helpful nagging from his mom and the device.  In fact, he considers the high tech help cool.

"It's a game factor, makes it fun,"  he said.

Stevens-Long does say keeping track of your own behavior with one of these devices can be helpful by making you more accountable.

Many of these gadgets are already on the market, and some are expected later this year.  Below are links to the devices along with links to reviews:

MOTHER: Central hub for monitoring items in your home

JUNE by Netatmo: Personalized sun protection coach

HAPIfork: monitors your eating

BEAM toothbrush: wirelessly tells a phone app how often and how long you brush your teeth

KOLIBREE toothbrush: Bluetooth toothbrush to monitor dental hygiene

LUMO: sensors for your body to track daily activity and help improve posture