Posts with «parenting» label

Senate tells social media CEOs they have 'blood on their hands' for failing to protect children

The CEOs of Meta, Snap, Discord, X and TikTok testified at a high-stakes Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on child exploitation online. During the hearing, Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel, Jason Citron, Linda Yaccarino and Shou Chew spent hours being grilled by lawmakers about their records on child safety. 

The hearing was the first time Spiegel, Citron and Yaccarino testified to Congress. Notably, all three were subpoenaed by the committee after refusing to appear voluntarily, according to lawmakers. Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Dick Durbin noted that Citron “only accepted services of his subpoena after US Marshals were sent to Discord’s headquarters at taxpayers’ expense.”

The hearing room was filled with parents of children who had been victims of online exploitation on social media. Many members of the audience silently held up photos of their children as the CEOs entered the room, and Durbin kicked off the hearing with a somber video featuring victims of child exploitation and their parents.

“Discord has been used to groom, abduct and abuse children,” Durbin said. “Meta’s Instagram helped connect and promote a network of pedophiles. Snapchat’s disappearing messages have been co-opted by criminals who financially extort young victims. TikTok has become a quote platform of choice for predators to access, engage and groom children for abuse. And the prevalence of CSAM on X has grown as the company has gutted its trust and safety workforce.”

During the hearing, many of the senators shared personal stories of parents whose children had died by suicide after being exploited online. "Mr. Zuckerberg, you and the companies before us — I know you don't mean it to be so — but you have blood on your hands," Senator Lindsey Graham said in his opening remarks. The audience applauded. 

While years of similar hearings have so far failed to produce any new laws, there is growing bipartisan support in Congress for new safety regulations. As Tech Policy Press points out, there are currently more than half a dozen bills dealing with children's online safety that have been proposed by senators. These include the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which would require platforms to create more parental control and safety features and submit to independent audits, and COPPA 2.0, a revised version of the 1998 Children and Teens' Online Privacy Protection Act, which would bar companies from collecting or monetizing children’s data without consent.

Senators have also proposed a number of bills to address child exploitation, including the EARN IT Act, currently in its third iteration since 2020, and the STOP CSAM Act. None of these have advanced to the Senate floor for a vote. Many of these bills have faced intense lobbying from the tech industry, though some companies in attendance said they are open to some aspects of the legislation.

Zuckerberg suggest a different approach, saying he supported age verification and parental control requirements at the app store level, which would effectively shift the burden to Apple and Google. Meta has come under particular pressure in recent months following a lawsuit from 41 states for harming teens’ mental health. Court documents from the suit allege that Meta turned a blind eye to children under 13 using its service, did little to stop adults from sexually harassing teens on Facebook and that Zuckerberg personally intervened to stop an effort to ban plastic surgery filters on Instagram.


This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Proposed California bill would let parents block algorithmic social feeds for children

California will float a pair of bills designed to protect children from social media addiction and preserve their private data. The Protecting Youth from Social Media Addiction Act (SB 976) and California Children’s Data Privacy Act (AB 1949) were introduced Monday by the state’s Attorney General Rob Bonta, State Senator Nancy Skinner and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks. The proposed legislation follows a CA child safety bill that was set to go into effect this year but is now on hold.

SB 976 could give parents the power to remove addictive algorithmic feeds from their children’s social channels. If passed, it would allow parents of children under 18 to choose between the default algorithmic feed — typically designed to create profitable addictions — and a less habit-forming chronological one. It would also let parents block all social media notifications and prevent their kids from accessing social platforms during nighttime and school hours.

 “Social media companies have designed their platforms to addict users, especially our kids. Countless studies show that once a young person has a social media addiction, they experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem,” California Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) wrote in a press release. “We’ve waited long enough for social media companies to act. SB 976 is needed now to establish sensible guardrails so parents can protect their kids from these preventable harms.”

L to R: California AG Rob Bonta, State Senator Nancy Skinner and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks
The Office of Nancy Skinner

Meanwhile, AB 1949 would attempt to strengthen data privacy for CA children under 18. The bill’s language gives the state’s consumers the right to know what personal information social companies collect and sell and allows them to prevent the sale of their children’s data to third parties. Any exceptions would require “informed consent,” which must be from a parent for children under 13.

In addition, AB 1949 would close loopholes in the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that fail to protect the data of 17-year-olds effectively. The CCPA reserves its most robust protections for those under 16.

“This bill is a crucial step in our work to close the gaps in our privacy laws that have allowed tech giants to exploit and monetize our kids’ sensitive data with impunity,” wrote Wicks (D-Oakland).

The bills may be timed to coincide with a US Senate hearing (with five Big Tech CEOs in tow) on Wednesday covering children’s online safety. In addition, California is part of a 41-state coalition that sued Meta in October for harming children’s mental health. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2021 that internal Meta (Facebook at the time) documents described “tweens” as “a valuable but untapped audience.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

TikTok gives parents even more control over what their teens see

TikTok has recently faced scrutiny over child safety issues in the US and elsewhere due to its youth-skewing userbase and reams of inappropriate content on the platform. Now, the company (owned by China's ByteDance) has announced that it's is giving parents more control over what their teens can see. It's adding new content filtering controls to its "Family Pairing" feature, letting parents filter out videos containing specific words or hashtags — while still keeping kids in the loop. 

TikTok introduced Family Pairing back in 2020 as a way to let parents link directly to their kids' accounts then remotely disable direct messages, set screen time limits and enable a "restricted content" mode. And last year, it added a tool that automatically filters out videos with words or hashtags users may not want to see in their For You or Following feeds. 

The new controls essentially combine those two features, giving parents the option to remotely filter out videos from their kids accounts in For You or Following with specific words or hashtags. "We're bringing this [content filtering] tool to Family Pairing to empower caregivers to help reduce the likelihood of their teen viewing content they may uniquely find jarring," TikTok wrote.


At the same time, kids will be alerted to their parents' selected filters and can choose not to opt-in, the company told Sky News. "By default, teens can view the keywords their caregiver has added and we believe this transparency can also help to prompt conversations about online boundaries and safety," the company wrote. "We also wanted to make sure we respect young people's right to participate."

At the same time, TikTok announced that it will form a global Youth Council later this year. The aim, it said, will be to "listen to the experiences of those who directly use our platform and be better positioned to make changes to create the safest possible experience for our community."

TikTok has been criticized for exposing children to videos showing self-harm, eating disorders and other inappropriate content, often disguised by slightly altered hashtags designed by bypass moderation. The company is facing new content regulations in UK via the Online Safety Bill, and US lawmakers are working on a Kids Online Safety Act that would force social media companies like TikTok to add online safeguards for children. TikTok was recently banned in Montana, but the company is suing the state on the grounds that the ban violates the First Amendment and other laws. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Senators reintroduce COPPA 2.0 bill to tighten child safety online

Yet more senators are trying to resurrect legislation aimed at protecting kids' online privacy. Senators Bill Cassidy and Ed Markey have reintroduced a "COPPA 2.0" (Children and Teens' Online Privacy Protection Act) bill that would expand and revise the 1998 law to deal with the modern internet, particularly social media.

COPPA 2.0 would bar companies from gathering personal data from teens aged 13 to 16 without their consent. It would ban all targeted advertising to children and teens, and create a "bill of rights" that limits personal info gathering for marketing purposes. The measure would also require a button to let kids and parents delete personal data when it's "technologically feasible."

The sequel potentially makes it easier to take action in the first place. Where COPPA requires direct knowledge that companies are collecting data from kids under 13, 2.0 would cover apps and services that are "reasonably likely" to have children as users. The Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, would have to establish a division committed to regulating youth marketing and privacy.

Cassidy and Markey portray the bill as necessary to tackle a "mental health crisis" where tech giants allegedly play a role. The politicians argue that social networks amplify teens' negative feelings, pointing to Facebook's own research as evidence.

Social networks have tried to clamp down on misuses of child data. Meta's Facebook and Instagram have limited ad targeting for teens, for instance. However, there have also been concerns that online platforms haven't gone far enough. On top of earlier calls for bans on ad targeting, states like Arkansas and Utah have already passed laws respectively requiring age verification and parental permission for social media. Another Senate bill, the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, would require parents' approval across the US.

Whether or not COPPA 2.0 makes it to the President's desk for signature isn't clear. The first attempt got stuck in committee ahead of the current Congress session. It also comes right as other senators are making attempts to revive the EARN IT Act (aimed at curbing child sexual abuse material) and the Kids Online Safety Act (meant to fight toxic online content as a whole). All three reintroductions are bipartisan, but they'll need considerably stronger support in the Senate, plus successful equivalents in the House, to become law.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The best tech gifts for new moms

There’s a lot to keep track of as a new mom. All of a sudden, you’re scrambling to learn how to care for a tiny person, without sleep and with a lot of new responsibilities. It’s a rough adjustment that takes time, patience and probably at least a few crying jags to get the hang of. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for a new mother, give her time to sleep. If you’re looking for the next best thing, try these helpful gadgets that are designed to make the job at least a little easier.

Hatch Rest+

Having a soft light on during nighttime feeds and diaper changes can be really helpful, especially when you’re sleep deprived. And a lot of experts will recommend using a white noise machine to help babies sleep soundly. Hatch’s Rest line combines both functions into a single device that can be controlled entirely from a smartphone. The Rest, and Rest+, offer 11 colors and sounds that can be combined, favorited, programed and timed to help your baby doze. The Rest+ is more expensive at $90, but adds a clock, battery power and a two-way audio monitor feature. It can also be voice controlled using Alexa. I’ve used it successfully to help sleep train the twins and, when they’re bigger, it can be programmed to help them learn when to wake up. — Amber Bouman, Commerce Writer

Owlet baby monitor and smart sensor

If there is only one piece of tech that makes it into the nursery, it should be a baby monitor. Being able to check on your sleeping infant without waking them is an invaluable gift, and you’ll want one that’s reliable, clear and adds thoughtful features (not just tech for tech’s sake).

Owlet makes a Cam that streams 1080p HD video to an app on your phone. The camera itself can sit on a base or get mounted to a wall. It has a 130-degree wide-angle lens to cover the room, but has to be manually tilted or adjusted so you can’t pan remotely. The video feed has night vision and displays in color during the day. The camera has two-way audio, so you can both hear your little one and speak to them through the device. There’s also background audio so sound from the camera will play over other apps if you have it up and running as well. In addition, it can send you notifications if it senses movement or sound coming from your baby’s crib. The Cam uses AES 128-bit encryption and a TSL connection to WiFi for security, though the feed can be shared with up to five people at a time (assuming you’ve shared your log-in credentials with them).

Lastly, it can be paired with Owlet's wearable sensor, the Smart Sock, which measures an infant’s heart rate and pulse ox. If the baby’s stats take a dive or shoot into irregular levels, you’ll get a very unsubtle alert on your phone — and on the sock’s base station. Because it’s intended to be worn at night and during naps, the Owlet Sock also tracks babies’ sleep habits. All this data is viewable in the app, making it a fairly complete monitoring system. — A.B.

LIFX smart lights

New moms don’t have enough hands to do everything they need to, when it needs to be done. Automating even the smallest task, like turning on and off a light, can be a big help. LIFX’s smart lights make great gifts because they come in all-white or color options, they’re dimmable and they require no connecting bridge or hub. That means your giftee can just screw them into their existing lamps, connect them to WiFi via the mobile app and start using them. They may want to automatically dim the lights in their baby’s room at a certain time, or shift to warmer or cooler light depending on the time of day. They can customize it as much or as little as they want — and if they just can’t be bothered, they can always use Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant voice commands to control these smart lights, too. — Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor

Kobo Clara 2E

Whether she’s bottle or breast feeding, a new mom has a lot of sitting-around time when the baby’s first born. She could spend time scrolling social media, but “flipping” through a book on an e-reader might be more rewarding. Kobo’s Clara 2E earned the top spot in our guide to e-readers thanks to its eye-friendly warm light, sharp display, intuitive interface and speedy but accurate touch responses. It’s compact and lightweight enough to hold in one hand, which is particularly important for busy new moms, and it can handle getting accidentally drenched. She can buy books through the Kobo store, borrow them from the library or subscribe to Kobo Plus for $10 per month to get unlimited access to a big selection of audio- and e-books. – Amy Skorheim, Commerce Writer

Theragun Mini 2.0

If the new baby has mom feeling knots, a personal massage “gun” like the Theragun Mini 2.0 can provide some temporary relief by gently pummeling away her muscle aches. While not the most forceful device of its kind, this triangular massager is effective enough to ease soreness yet small enough to carry around and outside of the house. We’ve recommended the original Mini in past gift guides; that one has slightly longer battery life and remains a good buy if you’re on a tighter budget, but this model is 20 percent smaller and supports a couple more attachments for targeting different parts of the body. Just be warned neither is exactly quiet. No massage gun is a substitute for proper sleep and nutrition habits, but since those will be in shorter supply for any new mom, it can be a useful tool to have on hand. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Commerce Writer 

Twelve South HoverBar Duo

A tablet might be a new mom’s saving grace when she’s constantly shuffling around the house tending to the needs of a baby. A good stand like the HoverBar Duo can make it easier for her to safely and securely prop up her device without fear of it accidentally being knocked over by a rogue, tiny fist. One of our favorite iPad accessories, the HoverBar Duo has a weighted base, and while it could be knocked over, it would require more force than most infants could muster. It also comes with a clamp attachment so they could hook it to a table or desk if that’s more convenient. Whether they need to use their tablet to read work documents, show off the little bundle of joy to friends and family in a video call, or just binge-watch a show while the kid naps, the HoverBar Duo can give them a stable way to keep their table in view. — V.P.

Baby Brezza Safe + Smart bottle warmer

I’m not sure exactly how many steps I’m earning walking up and downstairs to check on the bottle warmer, but it’s probably a fair percentage of my daily exercise. Baby Brezza makes a Safe + Smart Baby Bottle Warmer that uses Bluetooth to connect the device to your phone. Using the Baby Brezza app you can operate the warmer remotely and get alerts when the bottle is ready. Though the app is pretty minimal, that’s not always a bad thing when you’re bleary-eyed and trying to feed an infant in the early morning hours. Plus, having controls on your phone allows you to turn off the warmer and avoid overheating a bottle. The downside is that the Safe + Smart warmer only holds a single bottle at a time. — A.B.

Smart breast pump

If your giftee is breastfeeding or pumping, a smart breast pump from Elvie or Willow is going to be a huge time saver. These wearable pumps let Mom keep on schedule while keeping her hands free to do any of the 40 other things she’s got on her plate. The pump, power supply and container are all contained in the egg-shaped device, which pairs to an app using Bluetooth. They’re a bit cumbersome to wear, but comfortable to use, and it beats being tethered to a wall unit, though the results are not always as consistent.

Though both products are similar in design and functionality, there are some differences between them. The Willow pump can be used with reusable containers or disposable bags, while the Elvie only has the container option. The Elvie pump is quieter and more discreet, while the Willow pump offers a spill-proof system that can be used even while upside down. (I tested this myself and it works.) They can be purchased in a set or two, or as an individual pump. — A.B.

Wabi Baby 3-in-1 sanitizer

While my children are very cute, they also like to chew on my house slippers, eat post-its and lick the touch-and-feel books. So I spend a lot of time cleaning the things that do belong in their mouths like pacifiers and teethers and plastic toys, which invariably end up on the car floor. While most of these things are easy to throw into boiling water, it can be worth the time saved to let a sanitizer do the job. The Wabi Baby sanitizer is something that I received as a gift, and it’s served me well. It takes up a fair amount of counter space but it’s relatively quiet; it fits a wide variety of bottles, dinnerware and accessories; and it can run a drying cycle after the steam sanitation session.

The display shows how much longer the process will run, it’s fairly simple to operate and it automatically remembers your last session so you can select it again easily. However, you can only use distilled water which can admittedly be a pain. Also, you have to be careful about where you put the Wabi; it requires a drainage mat for excess water. — A.B.

Bose QuietComfort 2 earbuds

Bose’s QuietComfort 2 earbuds have excellent active noise cancellation (ANC), but new moms might not feel comfortable flipping it on when they’re always on alert. Fortunately, Bose’s latest buds also have a good transparency mode, which lets you hear the world around you and your music or podcast. They’ll pair up with Apple or Android devices and their smaller size make them more comfortable than previous generations. We awarded them an 87 in our review and gave them a spot in our wireless earbuds guide, mostly thanks to their ANC. Moms might not get the chance to tune out the world all that often, but when someone else is on baby duty, a little bit of silence may feel like a blessing. – A.S.

Hulu subscription

The new mom in your life will probably appreciate some TV time on your dime when she finally gets the little one to go to sleep – and when the baby inevitably wakes up and needs to be held soon after. Hulu’s app isn’t the cleanest, but the service remains one of the better streaming services for keeping up with recent episodes from primetime TV shows. It has its share of kid-friendly content as well, though you can expand that catalog by pairing the service with Disney+ (and ESPN+) through a Disney Bundle subscription. — J.D.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Sorry, but you still have to push this $3,800 electric-assist stroller

Non-parents may not believe it, but pushing a pram around can be a fairly strenuous task, especially when the train gets rough. It’s a full body workout to push two kids under four in my old Uppababy Vista, which weighed the same as an iceberg and had the turning circle of the Titanic. To remedy this, Canadian startup GlüxKind has developed an electrically-assisted stroller that’ll make pushing easier, and can even drive itself, albeit only when your kid isn’t on board.

The GlüxKind Ella is the brainchild of Anne Hunger and Kevin Huang, a couple who were less than whelmed when looking for a stroller for their own daughter. They decided to build their own device by strapping an electric skateboard to a regular stroller, and started developing their product from there. The device has three modes, the first of which is to add electric assist to the wheels as you’re pushing it around.

Trying this in an admittedly limited demo at CES, it feels very much like the sort of power boost you get with an e-bike. You still have to push this thing around, but you only have to make a fairly meager level of effort before the motor kicks in and helps you out. As well as easier forward motion, you’ll also find turning to be a lot snappier than you may expect, useful too when you’re trying to maneuver your rugrat in tight spaces. It’ll also prove useful when going uphill, or if you’re carrying lots of groceries in Ella’s surprisingly large cargo space.

I’m told that the battery will last for around eight hours of mixed use, and you’ll need to charge it at the end of every day, more or les.

You can also set the pram to rock your baby to sleep, moving backwards and forwards by about a foot. This, I’m sure, will be a godsend to parents who are otherwise praying for divine intervention at 3am as their precious child refuses to sleep. I’m aware that there are some safety caveats about using such a feature on a regular basis, but being able to call on the feature in a pinch will surely be an instant-sell to some harangued parents.

The last mode, and the most eye-catching, is self-driving, where the stroller will drive ahead of you by a couple of feet. It’ll maintain power when going up hill, and brake so it stays close to you when you’re going down the other side. But crucially, the system is designed to not work if you put your kid in the seat and expect the pram to do all of the work. A weight sensor in the bassinet and stroller chair will block the function if it detects the presence of a child.

A product like this is, understandably, going to be at the higher end of the price scale, and when it hits Kickstarter this spring, the first 100 units will set you back $3,800. Once that early bird special is done with, the price is likely to climb a little higher, but for that you’ll also get built-in GPS so you can track where your pram is if you’ve asked friends and family to babysit. GlüxKind also has plans to build out a community feature to find and connect like-minded parents — the sort of whom are also prepared to spend north of four grand on a self-driving stroller.

Snapchat Family Center shows parents their children's friends list

Snapchat has launched a parental control portal that allows parents to keep an eye on who their young teenagers have been chatting with. The new in-app feature called Family Center shows parents their kids' friends list, as well as who they've messaged in the last seven days. Take note that parents can only see who their teens have been talking to, but they won't be able to read their chat history. Snap says the center was designed to "reflect the way... parents engage with their teens in the real world" in that they know (for the most part) who their kids have been hanging out with but don't listen in on their conversations.

In addition, parents can confidentially report accounts they think might be violating Snap's rules straight from the Family Center. Back in January, Snapchat changed its friend recommendation feature following calls for increased safety on the app by making it harder for adults to connect with teen users: In particular, it stopped showing accounts owned by 13-to-17-year-old users in Quick Add. Teens also can't have public profiles and have to be mutual friends to be able to communicate with each other. Plus, their accounts will only show up in search results under certain circumstances, such as if the one searching has a mutual friend with them.

Snap promised to launch new parental controls and other features designed to protect underage users on its service last year. The company revealed its plans in a hearing wherein lawmakers put the pressure on social networks and apps that cater to teens, such as Snapchat and TikTok, to do more to protect children on their platforms. 

Family Center is completely voluntary, and teens can always leave the portal if they want — they'll even be given the choice to accept or ignore a parent's invitation to join. And since the feature was made for underage teens, users who turn 18 will automatically be removed from the tool.

The company plans to roll out more features for the Family Center on top of what it already has. It will allow parents to easily see the newest friends their teens have added in the coming weeks. And over the next months, Snap will add content controls for parents, as well as the ability for teens to notify their parents whenever they report an account or a piece of content.

Instagram is getting ‘parental supervision’ features

Meta is introducing new “parental supervision” features for Instagram and virtual reality. The update will be available first for Instagram, which has faced a wave of scrutiny for its impact on teens and children, with new parental controls coming to Quest headsets over the next few months.

On Instagram, the controls will be part of a new “Family Center,” where parents can set time limits and access information about their teen’s activity on the app. For now, parents will be able to see a list of accounts their teen is following, as well as which accounts follow them. Parents will also be notified if their teen reports another user.

Notably, the update is for now only available in the United States and parents will only be able to access the parental control features if the teens “initiate supervision” within the app themselves. Teens will also need to approve any parental requests for parental supervision. “Over the next few months we’ll add additional features, including letting parents set the hours during which their teen can use Instagram, and the ability for more than one parent to supervise a teen’s account,” Instagram Head Adam Mosseri writes in a blog post.


The new features, which were first promised back in December, arrive after Instagram was forced to “pause” work on a dedicated app for kids younger than 13 after a whistleblower disclosed internal research documenting Instagram’s impact on teens’ mental health. The disclosures prompted lawmakers to push Meta to end work on Instagram Kids entirely. So far, Meta executives have declined to do so.

Mosseri said the company also plans to add similar parental control features to its Quest headsets so parents can also set limits on their children’s activities in virtual reality. Those features, which won’t launch for a few more months, will enable parents to restrict VR content rated for ages 13 and up and set other limits on VR purchases. Meta is also working on a “Parent Dashboard” for the Oculus app so parents can keep tabs on what their children are watching and how much time they are spending in VR.

The best deals on baby gadgets we found for Black Friday

Parenthood, while constantly entertaining, is also one of the most eye-ball meltingly frustrating experiences I’ve personally ever had. At the end of the day, I do not have patience for any additional extra hassles, be it an unresponsive device, lagging apps or diaper wipes that come out 15 at a time. There are some parenting gadgets that are actually worth your money because they can make life with new babies much more convenient, and some of our favorites are on sale for Black Friday. We’ve tried out nearly every product below so we can vouch for their advantages, functionality and what really counts as a good deal for the holiday shopping season. That way you can save all your patience for the toy cars, houses and high chairs you're going to have to build after Christmas. 

Nanit Pro baby monitor


Nanit earned a space in our best baby monitor guide because of the crisp, clear details provided by the 1080p birds-eye camera, day or night. The app provides detailed metrics about your child’s sleep habits, as well as video clips though some of that requires a subscription. And Nanit’s wearables — like the Breathing Wear or Smart sheets —measure additional data about your child like respiration rate and height, respectively. The Nanit Pro complete bundle, with the camera, wall mount, travel mount, Smart Sheet, Breathing Band and year of Nanit Insights, is 26 percent off, bringing it down to $280. The rest of Nanit’s products have been discounted as well, including smaller bundles and the wearable accessories.

Buy Nanit Pro bundle at Amazon - $280Shop Nanit Black Friday sales at Amazon

Eufy SpaceView Pro baby monitor


Eufy makes reliable, uncomplicated baby monitors that use a wireless FHSS transmission to show a live feed of your kid’s room. Its lack of WiFi makes its feed more secure, though it does require you to carry around an external device. Eufy’s Spaceview Pro pans and tilts to show an entire room and the 5-inch display will last up to twelve continuous hours. The single camera package is $30 off with a coupon, knocking it down to $140, and a bundle that includes the camera, monitor and a crib mount is also discounted thanks to a $40 coupon, bringing it down to $155.

Buy SpaceView Pro monitor at Amazon - $140Buy SpaceView S monitor bundle at Amazon - $155

Cubo AI baby monitor

Cubo AI

While we haven’t finished a formal review of the Cubo AI baby monitor, our initial testing went well: The cute bird-shaped camera can be mounted to a wall or crib and provides a detailed, clear 1080p view. The system uses AI to determine if your baby’s nose or mouth are covered and will send an alert; it can also be useful for older children where it can be set to alert you if they cross into prohibited areas. The feed runs to a companion app that works with Google Home or Alexa, provides two-way audio or enables the night light or lullaby features. Right now, the Cubo AI camera with the wall mount is $30 off with a coupon, making it $170.

Buy Cubo AI at Amazon - $170

Hatch Baby Rest

Amber Bouman/Engadget

Time and time again, I’ve recommended the Hatch Baby Rest because it’s a product I use every single day. The minimalist nightlight-slash-noise machine can display a variety of colors, and sounds, and is controllable from your smartphone or by using the physical buttons. Favorite combos can be saved and programmed, or you can select from presets. The Rest is helpful in sleep training kids, or keeping babies asleep, and can grow with kids by being used to signal awake times. The basic Rest is 40 percent off, so you can snag one for only $60.

Buy Hatch Baby Rest at Amazon - $60

Withings Thermo smart thermometer


Another product that quickly won me over during testing is Withings Thermo smart thermometer. I know, a $100 temporal thermometer seems like an unnecessary extravagance. But it’s small and discrete enough to carry on trips, easy and painless to use on squirmy kiddos and the app makes it easy to track the readings from multiple family members. It’s also currently down to $64, only a few dollars shy of its lowest price ever, which makes it even easier to recommend.

Buy Withings Thermo at Amazon - $64

4moms mamaRoo 4 baby swing


We put the mamaRoo 4 baby swing in our best baby gear guide thanks in part to its easy setup and the freedom it gives parents to entertain their kids without having them in their arms at all times. The swing mimics the things parents often do to soothe their kids with its five movement options, five speed settings and four built-in sounds. The best part? It's fully controllable via your smartphone, so you can easily change up the motion, speed or sound when your child gets bored and fussy. The mamaRoo 4 normally costs $250, but it's on sale for $200 for Black Friday.

Buy mamaRoo 4 at Amazon - $200

Miku baby monitor


We haven’t reviewed the Miku yet, but it looks to offer many of the same advantages as the cameras we have spent hands-on time with: A birds-eye 1080p HD video stream of you child's crib that also measures respirations per minute, tracks sleep data, two-way audio, access from anywhere via the app and lullabies. The company is offering the camera with the wall mount for $300, which is $100 off.

Buy Miku baby monitor at Amazon - $300

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The best educational toys for kids

It’s tempting to get your kid every shiny new toy they ask for. But some toys are better than others when it comes to actually stimulating your child’s brain while also keeping them entertained. The parents on the Engadget staff know this well, and we’ve tried out a bunch of educational toys with our kids, with various results. These are some of the ones that have had staying power with our children — and even we adults have to admit we found them pretty fun, too.

Smart Lab: Smart Circuits

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

When it comes to introducing kids to electronics there are a ton of options, but I personally like the Smart Circuits kit. It can take a kid from simple blinking lights to complex motion-controlled games. The snap-together baseboard can lie flat on a table like a regular breadboard, but it can also be folded into a cube or the pieces can be attached at a 90-degree angle. This gives kids an extra element to play with when they graduate to designing their own circuits.

The kit itself only has a few pieces, but they’re quite flexible. And they’re all housed in large colorful plastic that should be easy for a kid to handle. There’s the usual electronics kid fare, like LEDs, a speaker, a potentiometer and two buttons. But there’s also a tilt switch, a light sensor and a microprocessor capable of handling some relatively robust tasks. The kit comes with instructions for 50 projects, but with the parts available a creative child could build quite a few more.

My one critique is that the jumper wires can be tough to insert and might require a bit of patience — something we know not every eight-year-old has an abundance of.  Terrence O’Brien, Managing Editor

Buy Smart Circuits at Amazon - $50

Playskool Shape Sorter


A shape sorter is an awesome toy for younger kids because it encourages hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem-solving and even vocabulary (by identifying the names of shapes and colors). My kids have a few of them, but the one I like most is this Playskool model and here’s why. The lid latches, which means they can’t just dump the shapes out easily; they have to learn how to work the mechanics of the lid as well. Also, the multi-colored shapes have tactile patterns on them that match the area of the box they’re supposed to fit into, and that gives me another teaching opportunity. The whole thing is durable, too — my son likes to chew on the shapes and my daughter likes to stand on the box, but despite that abuse, there’s not so much as a dent or a scratch on it. And because it’s only $9, it makes a great gift if you’re buying for someone else’s kiddo. — Amber Bouman, Associate Editor, Parenting

Buy Shape Sorter at Amazon - $10

Yoto Player

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The Yoto Player is the perfect toy for a young child who wants to play their own tunes and stories, but who isn’t ready for an iPad or smart speaker of their own. Yoto’s cute design and blocky, pixel-like display looks distinctly retro. It’s detailed enough for kids to make out images, but it’s insufficient for video, which should actually be good news for parents worried about too much screen time. Yoto calls the player a “carefully connected” speaker: You bring it online during the initial setup, but from there kids can access safe songs and other content through physical cards. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor

Buy Yoto Player starter pack at Amazon - $110

Amazon Fire 7 Kids Pro

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

While Amazon’s Fire tablets may not always be the best option for adults, the company’s kid-friendly models are a safe bet. Thanks to the included case, the Fire Kids Pro lineup is built to withstand frequent tumbles. The company offers adequate parental controls so you can keep tabs on content and includes one year of Amazon Kids+ for free. The Kids+ service offers access to over 20,000 apps, games, books, videos, songs and audiobooks from National Geographic, LEGO and more. You also get access to a digital store where you can install additional apps as you see fit. — Billy Steele, Senior News Editor

Buy Fire Kids Pro at Amazon - $100

Kiwi Crates subscription

Kiwi Crate

I am, admittedly, a sucker for a good subscription box. But Kiwi Crate is the only one that doesn’t feel like an indulgence. Each month my three-year-old gets a collection of simple DIY toys, crafts and games built around a theme. For instance, a recent box was all about bioluminescent animals. Inside was a plush lightning bug that we had to stuff ourselves and shape using hair ties; a mushroom that had us painting a Slurpee lid and then dotting it with glow-in-the-dark stickers; and a dancing, glowing jellyfish as well as several window clings of sea creates for him to create scenes with.

Past kits have covered farm life, dinosaurs and simple machines like ramps. The stuff inside the box is usually pretty simple (think: cardboard, felt and wood). It’s definitely not built to last, but my kid has gotten plenty of use out of each piece.

The best part is the crates will grow with him. As he gets older the projects will get more complex (and the price will go up). Later boxes include everything from screen-printing tools, to trebuchet kits and even robots. — T.O.

Buy Kiwi Crates starting at $16 a month

Lego Duplo My First Number Train

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Sorry, folks, but this isn’t an electronic gizmo-toy that you can plug in, connect to the internet and treat it as somehow educational. As something of a traditionalist, I’ve always preferred solid toys that offer kids some license to imagine what’s going on, and this offers that in spades. Duplo’s My First Number Train is a train, with the coaches made from double-height number blocks running from 0 - 9. The aim is for your rugrats to place each block in chronological order and get familiar (almost subconsciously) with the concept of a number line.

Then, as they get a little older, you can do any number of things with the set, including (as we did) tie a ribbon around the chimney and fashion it as a pull-along train. Both my son and daughter (we bought one for each) love racing through the hallway with their pull-along trains. And, now that my daughter is in school, the train’s number blocks come in handy to help with the basics of her maths homework. Plus, it never hurts to have a surplus of double-height Duplo bricks for all of the (completely inaccurate) Frozen castles you’ll be building on Saturday mornings. — Daniel Cooper, Senior Editor

Buy My First Number Train at LEGO - $20

Kano PC


The Kano PC may look at first like a cheap Surface knock-off, but based on our testing, it’s also a perfect introduction to the computer world for young children. It’s partially DIY — the base unit is a Windows 10 tablet with a pre-installed CPU, memory and storage, but kids will have to plug in a colorful battery and speaker module to get it going. Kano encourages youngsters to take a close look at all of the PC’s clearly labeled hardware with the bundled magnifying glass. And once they get going, it’s still a decently capable Windows 10 PC, with a Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 1080p webcam. Heck, it even comes with a keyboard cover, something Microsoft still hasn’t bundled with the Surface tablets. — D.H.

Buy Kano PC at Best Buy - $200

Playtime Engineering: Blipblox

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The Blipblox may look like a simple noise-maker for kids, but this gadget is much more than just a toy. While the device is loaded with 300 melodies and a synchronized light show, it also packs a capable digital synthesizer engine. There’s an oscillator with the usual assortment of synth parameters along with an amp envelope, two LFOs, modulation envelope and a low-pass filter. The Blipblox also has a MIDI input for use with a keyboard or other accessories in addition to a ¼-inch output. Lastly, it runs on three AA batteries or plugged in via a USB cable. Blipblox can teach kids about music through a basic approach to instruments and synthesis, but its features are advanced enough to offer noise-making magic for parents, too. — B.S.

Buy Blipbox at Amazon - $189

Montessori Busy Board

Will Lipman Photography / deMoca

My kids are currently fascinated with snaps, zippers and closures, which is fun because it means it’s easy to amuse them, but awkward, too, because they often decide to undo the closures on the shirt I’m wearing. A busy board capitalizes on this curiosity by offering several different clasps, snaps, zippers, buttons and openings for little ones to work their fingers on. It intrigues children by activating their senses and helps them develop their fine-motor skills and problem solving by using real-world obstacles. It also adheres to the Montessori philosophy of simple, wooden toys that help children explore the world around them through play. The deMoca busy board is one of my favorites because it has bright, eye-catching colors, and 10 sensory activities including a zipper, a buckle, a latch and Velcro. It’s easy to bring along on trips, and deMoca also makes a “Quiet Book” — a soft-cover, fabric version that’s washable. — A.B.

Buy busy board at Amazon - $60