Sakura Kindergarten in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, is one of a growing number of day-care centers hoping to use the Internet and other information technology to keep parents happy and worry-free.
Sakura has 11 cameras in its kindergarten and adjacent facilities so the parents of about 200 children up to 12 years old can monitor them from their computers or cell phones.
Sakura was the first kindergarten to start the video service. It did so with the help of Tokyo-based DoCoMo Machine Communications Inc., an affiliate of NTT DoCoMo Inc., in April 2001.
The cameras operate for six hours a day and transmit video in real time. The image quality of the wide-angle stationary cameras may not be sharp, but it’s good enough for parents to spot their children.
A 33-year-old man who didn’t want his name published said he watches his child on his cell phone when he takes a break at work.
“I’m relieved and happy to get just a glance of him,” he said. “His grandparents in Nagasaki Prefecture enjoy seeing him, too.”
Demand for day care is on the rise in areas around big cities in the face of growing numbers of working mothers amid the prolonged recession. Meanwhile, child safety has become a major concern for parents following a rash of child-abuse incidents reported at day-care centers across the country.
A DoCoMo Machine Communications official said his company has been getting inquiries about the technology from many people, including those in smaller municipalities, suggesting demand for such services is growing.
The camera system helps Sakura deepen mutual trust with the children’s parents, according to Kiyoko Yoshimura, who runs the day-care center.
“Since we are always watched (by parents), the system helps us improve the quality of the day-care service,” she said.
Poppins Corp. of Tokyo, which manages day-care centers in the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Kansai region, has developed an “E-nursery children-fostering system” and plans to inaugurate it this summer. It will provide video on its Web site and arrange for emergency baby sitters.
Its transmission system will enable parents to operate cameras installed in the firm’s day-care centers by remote control. The service will let them zoom in on their kids. They can also get videos of children attending events such as birthday parties.
The corporation’s system allows the day-care centers to keep online contact with baby sitters. It asks them to register days and times they are available so they can be called to work on short notice.
President Noriko Nakamura said the innovations reflect the changing face of society. “Day-care centers in the past were concerned with the problem of child care. They didn’t think much about parents’ convenience. We must (consider child care) from the standpoint of working mothers.”
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