The use of nanny cams, the personal surveillance cameras that are either hidden or installed in plain sight to record a nanny’s activities on the job, is a hotly debated topic. Some parents feel it’s wise to use what technology has to offer to monitor kids’ safety and care, while others feel that the use of a nanny cam—especially one that is used to record a person without his or her knowledge—is a breach of privacy or at very least uncomfortable for the person who is being watched.

photo via Town Post Network/flickr
photo via Town Post Network/flickr

A nanny cam can be a useful tool if it is used appropriately, it can also be a quick way to destroy a relationship with the family nanny if he or she feels trust has been violated. Here we explore the possible pros and cons of using nanny cams to keep an eye on your children and their caregiver while you’re away:

Using a Nanny Cam is Legal With Some Exceptions

It is legal to make a video recording of anything that happens in your home, as long as you have a legitimate reason for doing it—such as monitoring your baby or caregiver. It doesn’t matter if the camera is hidden or not, though if you are recording your nanny you need to do it public areas of the house, such as the kitchen and living room, and not in private areas such as the bathroom or a live-in nanny’s bedroom.

However, in several states (including California) it is illegal to make an audio recording without the knowledge and consent of the person being recorded. For this reason, many nanny cams do not record audio. If you do make a video with audio recording and find evidence of neglect or abuse, the tapes are inadmissible in court and you could be liable for breaking privacy laws.

The Pros of Using a Nanny Cam

When asked why they choose to use a nanny cam to record their nanny’s interactions with their children, many parents cite these benefits obtained from using a nanny cam:

  • Nanny cams offer parents peace of mind.

It can be difficult to leave your children in someone else’s care, especially with a new nanny or babysitter. Nanny cams can provide comfort by giving you the ability to see that your kids are safe and content.

  • Monitoring your children’s safety is your right.

There’s surveillance in many workplaces, including most day care centers and schools. Should a child care provider in your home be exempt from safety surveillance?

  • A nanny cam can be your eyes and ears when children are too young to speak up.

Young children can’t tell you what’s happening while you are gone, and you can’t always rely on feedback from friends and neighbors who sporadically see your children and their nanny together at a park or school. When kids are older, they can let you know if their nanny is distracted by her phone, avoids outdoor play, or allows screen time that goes against your family rules. Until then, it’s nice to see how their day plays out while you’re away.

  • Nanny cams allow you to feel better connected.

Some working parents feel sad or guilty for missing out on everyday moments and milestones. Technology allows you to check in and see your child’s face or catch a glimpse of milestones you may otherwise miss.

The Cons of Using a Nanny Cam

With so many advantages to using a nanny cam, why the debate over their use? Some parents say it boils down to privacy and trust.

  • A nanny cam can be seen as violating your nanny’s trust.

If a nanny discovers a hidden camera—for instance, disguised in a house plant, stuffed animal, or a clock—he or she can feel violated, offended, hurt that you doubt their abilities or intent, or simply embarrassed. You risk damaging a valuable relationship.

“Whether or not you choose to use a nanny cam is up to you, but both you and your nanny need to be comfortable with your decision for the relationship to work,” advises Lynn Perkins, CEO of UrbanSitter.

It’s best to be upfront about your plans to install a nanny cam and let your child care provider decide if the job is right for them. Many nannies are comfortable working in a home with a nanny cam, as long as they are aware of its use.

  • Nanny cams can be misleading or misconstrued.

Cameras typically cover a specific area, not the big picture. You may catch a glimpse of a crying baby and not see your nanny preparing a bottle to sooth her, or you may see an exhausted caregiver taking a well-deserved break while a tot naps, but fail to see the activities and play that exhausted them both. Snapshots of daily care can be taken out of context and may be difficult to interpret.

  • Nanny cams are often used for the wrong reason.

The purpose of a nanny cam should be to deter or prevent neglect or abuse, not capture it. Rather than focusing on recording potential wrongdoings, clearly communicate your expectations and act immediately if you feel something isn’t right. It’s also wise to occasionally drop in on a caregiver to observe interactions.

  • You could be breaking the law.

States have different laws concerning privacy and recording. Be sure you know the laws and the intricacies of them in your state before installing a camera to monitor your child care provider.

Among the other effective ways to ensure and motivate proper care for your kids is to thoroughly vet potential caregivers through interviews and background and reference checks, and clearly communicate your expectations. If you decide to use a nanny cam, consider being upfront about your decision to assure your nanny that you respect their privacy.

By Dawn Van Osdell, Contributing Writer for UrbanSitter

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