Using a Nanny Cam

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Legalities and Ethics of Using a Nanny Cam

Deciding to use a nanny cam to keep an eye on your children and childcare provider is becoming more popular in today's society. Essentially, you are spying on your employee, but to what extent should you go? In most states, it is legal to record visual images only. Audio is considered a violation of rights and privacy, and is illegal in several states. Your surveillance provider can tell you more.

When using a video camera to watch your nanny, you can place them in your family room, dining room, kitchen, kids' rooms-basically anywhere your nanny would be watching the children. You should not place one in the bathroom that your nanny or other visitors may use. Additionally, you cannot place them in live-in quarters of a full-time nanny.

Telling your nanny whether or not you have a camera set up is your prerogative. Experienced nannies with nothing to fear may not mind being "spied" on if they know about it. However, a lot of people do feel embarrassed or ashamed to be on camera, even if they are doing nothing wrong.

Tell your nanny upfront that you, like employers in other fields, have surveillance in place, and that it is a condition of her employment with you. Explain that like daycare centers that now provide Web-feeds, you simply want to know what your child is doing during the day.

Instincts and Background Checks Still Important

Before buying or renting a camera, decide why you are getting one. Is it because you do not trust your childcare provider? Or, do you just want to be sure that your choice is a "good fit?" Here are some ways to make sure you hire the right nanny:

  • Find your nanny through a reputable service.
  • Check all the nanny's references and former employers.
  • Interview the nanny by yourself (or with your partner); then have him/her meet your children.
  • Schedule a "trial" day or evening for the nanny to come to your home. Ask your children how they liked her, about activities, and see the state your home is in when you return.

Once you find a nanny you like, set clear rules for him/her. If there are certain things you are particular on, such as naptimes or snacks, make sure that is outlined. Additionally, have a discipline system set up, should she/he not live up to expectations (like docking pay or losing a day off). Live-in nannies should be given locks to their rooms for privacy and have set days off.

Uncomfortable After the Hire

If you feel the need to use a nanny cam after hiring your childcare provider, ask yourself why you feel this way. Are you uncomfortable around her? Do your children seem to behave oddly when she is around? Instead of waiting to "catch" her in the act of doing something like neglect or abuse, simply let her go. Most contracts are "at will", and you can do this without consequence. Double check yours to be sure.

Checking Up Without Surveillance

Ways to check up on your nanny without videotaping them include:

  • "Forgetting" something and coming home for it 10-30 minutes after you leave.
  • Come home early from work.
  • Have a neighbor stop by once or twice a week.
  • Call home during the day to see where the nanny is and what she is doing.
  • Spend a day working from home while the nanny watches your children.
  • Ask swim instructors, librarians, piano teachers, and others who see your children and nanny regularly if your child seems happy with the new nanny.

Buying a Discreet Camcorder

Should you decide that having a camera is the best way for you to feel safe or connected to your children, there are many options. Few people like the idea of open cameras in their homes. Hidden cameras in everyday objects are a good option.

Even if your nanny is aware she is being taped, you are under no obligation to tell her exactly where the cameras are located. This is a good compromise for those who want to tape but do not feel comfortable doing it in secret.

Recording devices come in lamps, teddy bears, VCRs, clocks, picture frames, books, baby care essentials, and more. They can run anywhere from renting at around $150 a day to upwards of thousands of dollars for a sophisticated full home security system. Options are endless for these devices:

  • Black and white or color video
  • Digital
  • Wireless
  • DVR recording
  • Live video internet feeds

In order to get the best use of your nanny cam, you should monitor it regularly. Taping only once a week and viewing it sporadically makes it hard to find instances of abuse or neglect. You should keep a continuous feed running. Review it nightly, fast-forwarding it through simple tasks and watching closer interactions at regular speed.

Using a Nanny Cam