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Is A Nanny Cam Right for Your Family?

The use of nanny cams (hidden cameras) is controversial.  Some people think nanny cams are a sound way for parents to keep tabs on their children and ensure that their nanny is handling their children in a manner that is consistent with parental expectations.  Other people think nanny cams are an invasion of privacy.  What are the facts of this situation?

The use of video-only (no audio) nanny cams is legal in all 50 states . . . if you tell your nanny that she has no right to expect privacy in your home (with the exception that she should be able to have privacy in her bedroom and bathroom in your home).  It is best to have your nanny, at the time of her hire, sign a statement that she acknowledges no right to privacy (except in her bedroom and bathroom) in your home.

Audio recording comes with greater legal risk.  In some states, hidden audio recording of your children and your nanny is not legal under any circumstances.

For those families that choose to use nanny cams, the dilemma becomes whether to tell the nanny where the nanny cams are located.  Nanny cams are frequently located in teddy bears, house plants, clocks, etc. throughout the house, but should the nanny know that she is being nanny cammed in the hallways (a nanny cam is in the hall clock) but not in the living room?  This is a decision that each family must make based on their own unique circumstances. 

The primary purpose for using nanny cams should be to keep tabs on the children.  Do you need to be away while little Johnny is having a play date?  Do you want to see if he had fun?  The nanny cam will enable you to see little Johnny and his buddy, and you may feel like you were actually there.  Knowing about your children and the events in their lives is very important. 

A secondary purpose for using nanny cams is to ensure that the nanny is handling the children in a manner that is consistent with parental expectations.  When the nanny is new to the family and trust is still being established, or if trust later becomes an issue in the relationship between family and nanny, nanny cams can be invaluable tools for establishing or maintaining trust in the nanny, for letting parents know when they need to clarify expectations with their nanny, or for establishing that trust is not supported by the facts.  Preventing needless discharges of nannies falsely suspicioned and supporting discharges for nannies who have been shown to be violating a family’s trust are significant advantages of nanny cams.  Keep in mind that the relationship between family and nanny is an employment relationship, despite the family-like feel to the relationship.  Trust between a family and their nanny is essential but earned.

In sum, the use of nanny cams offers both benefits and risks.  Only you can decide what is best for your family.  If you decide to use nanny cams, you should communicate your decision in a direct, tactful manner to your children and your nanny.  Focus on the primary purpose of nanny cams:  your desire to keep tabs on your children and see how they spend their days.  Honesty is the cornerstone of healthy relationships: so, if at some point you develop a concern about the trustworthiness of your nanny, you should visit with your nanny about your concerns.  Your nanny cams will then come in handy for their secondary purpose. 

Nanny cams are less expensive and easier to use than ever.  For many families, “better safe than sorry” is their motto.  By navigating the hazards referenced in this blog, families should be able to reap the benefits while minimizing their risks.

 *You should speak with an attorney in your state to ensure compliance with your state’s laws and to craft a no-right-to-privacy statement for your nanny to sign at the time of her hire.

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3 comments to Is A Nanny Cam Right for Your Family?

  • Deni

    Here is the bottom line. Nannies are placed under scrutiny because of a few that have broken the code of care. There are opportunist in every industry, unfortunately children have become the objects of some sick people. Without understanding we can’t make it better. A “nanny cam” is not a way of preventing child abuse. It is nothing more than a reactive measure that “catches” them after the act. But, do we really want to “catch them”? Why don’t we think about preventing intentional acts of harm?

    First, you have to look at child care from concentric rings radiating from a smaller inner ring out to larger rings. The child is the center or the smaller of the rings. Parents, their parental policies and child care fall within the outer circles. Lets look at the rings from the security and safety stand point.

    With the child at the center parents have to make a conscious decision to hire the very best their money can buy. The saying “You get what you pay for” is absolutely true. This does not necessarily mean more cost, but it means not skimping on child care requirements you expect from your nanny. When looking at the concentric rings think of the outer ring farthest from your child as a looser parameter and as they progress closer to your child they become more stringent and controls are tighter. Take a look at an example from the outer rings in towards the center.

    1. Education
    2. Training
    3. Experience
    4. Continuous education
    5. Background investigation
    6. References
    7. Annual background investigation
    8. Psychological evaluation
    9. Parents access to nannies professional profile
    10.Parents personal evaluation of the nannies professionalism.

    We believe that a nanny should PROVE their worth by jumping through hoops, so to speak. If a nanny will not submit themselves to continuous education, shy’s away from real background investigations or will not submit their full professional profile to they family the work for, then these are red flags parents should take a second look at.

    It is the parents responsibility to demand professional child care, and if parents were properly educated and nannies professionally qualified we can tighten the protection of children ten-fold. Nanny cams have a place, but proactive prevention is stronger that reactive measures that allow a family to review abuse. Nothing more than the highest quality nanny should be used for any family.

    Deni Zinxhiria
    Co-founder, NANNYGUARDS(SM)

  • Great post. With our customers, this issue is almost always at the forefront of their minds when shopping our store. Parents are certainly within the right to know what’s going on within their own home and with their child(ren), but it is still a bit of a thorny “trust” issue.

    I can’t say how all caregivers might feel about being recorded, but I do not find it offensive, provided there are obvious areas of privacy (restroom). Practically every place of work I’m aware of engages in recording these days, including retail and corporate environments.

    Great job in pointing out the legal issue surrounding audio recording. That’s also another big question we get.

  • a nanny

    I am a nanny and am fine with a family having a nanny cam IF they tell me they have them! I suspect that my current family has one and it freaks me out b/c I feel that my privacy has been invaded. I dont know where the cams are and wonder if they’ve seen me change clothes when I had to take a shower there (only b/c I had to arrive at their house at 530am w/o showering at home first). I have had personal conversations with my boyfriend, or have cried about personal situations that I dont want them to know about etc. If I were asked to sign a “no privacy” waiver up front, I would have been cool with it. But taping me behind my back makes me angry. I suspect a nanny cam b/c the mom has “coincidentally” mentioned too many things for them to all be coincidences…

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