Should Parents Spy?

Are nanny cams necessary to keep your child safe?

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You may like the idea of keeping a watchful eye on your nanny using hidden surveillance cameras, but using a “nanny cam” can present an ethical and possibly legal dilemma. You want to know your kids are safe, but should you spy?

Many of us have watched, stunned, as one of the popular prime-time news magazines showed a tape of a nanny or babysitter abusing, neglecting, or caring improperly for a child. We wonder how people so cruel or with such a lack of common sense could be caring for little ones in the first place. Yet they are, daily—and some parents, alarmed by stories of abusive caregivers, have resorted to spying in their own homes.

Using hidden cameras, also known as “nanny cams,” raises issues of ethics and security—such as violating an employee’s rights in the workplace versus allowing concerned parents to ensure their children’s safety while under another person’s care.

Nanny Cams

Sales of nanny cams have grown over the last decade. “There has been a steady increase…especially in today’s day and age with security. [The cameras] provide peace of mind for parents, knowing when you’re not home you know what’s going on between your nanny or caregiver and your child,” says Craig Erkus, President of Nanny Check, Inc.

Parents can choose from numerous styles of cameras. “We have typical household products with the camera hidden inside that sends a wireless signal to anywhere in the home with a receiver that’s plugged into a VCR,” says Erkus. “We use anything from a clock radio to a lamp to a desk antique clock or computer speakers.” These items allow discreet monitoring for parents and function normally, never alerting the sitter that they are being videotaped.

Paula Short of Intellicam Systems says the clock radio that records in color, one of their most popular items with a hidden camera, has an average cost of $289, with black and white video being more expensive and more highly recommended. “The resolution is higher on the black and white camera…and a black and white camera can record in darker conditions and has a better clarity,” says Short.

Are Hidden Cameras Legal?

Before parents begin taping with a hidden camera, it is important they become familiar with the laws in their state regarding surveillance. Erkus and Short say it is generally legal to videotape nannies without their permission; however, laws governing use of a device with an audio component to tape a sitter without consent vary from state to state. Suppliers of electronic surveillance equipment should be familiar with local laws.

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