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Bringing up baby in a bubble

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Elsewhere, a remote fever monitor "takes your child's temperature abdominally every 5 seconds and transmits it to the parents' monitor every 10 seconds." And a child distance monitor provides "an early warning alarm system that detects when a child strays too far from adult supervision." The child's transmitter includes a panic button.

For older children, a security-alarm backpack features a high-decibel alarm and a flashing strobe light that can be activated by pulling a rip cord.

Are parents overprotecting children?

Although these products may offer potential advantages, some critics say the collective effect of so many safety-oriented items feeds parental fears, encouraging them to want more. "We provide the fertile terrain for this product development and the marketing to flourish in," says Judith Warner, the mother of two young daughters and author of "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety."

Concerned that Americans may be raising "a nation of sissies," Ms. Warner warns that by being overprotective, "parents are basically weakening their children."

Some medical researchers, she notes, think the dramatic increase in peanut allergies stems in part from keeping children too clean. "They found that the immune system of children on farms was a lot stronger than children in suburbs," she says. "They hypothesized that exposure to dirt bolstered their immune system in a way that made them hardier."

Calling that "a fantastic metaphor for the way we parent right now," Warner says, "We want to create these all-but-sterile environments, these protected environments."

She wonders about "the larger cost of bringing children up in a bubble," adding, "Any psychologist will tell you it's damaging to grow up with a very anxious parent. That attitude is more damaging than the actual threat."

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