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In response to my post on questions I would ask a prospective nanny, I was asked about my stance on cameras in the home to monitor the nanny. Specifically, would I work for a family who used one and would said family have to disclose the camera ahead of time.

First, to discuss the legality – you can indeed use a nanny cam (video only, no audio) without telling the nanny. This is completely legal. Now, is it ethical to do so? That’s up to you to decide. Being concerned about the safety of your child is totally valid and there are many ways to deal with that concern. A nanny cam is one of the options available to parents who feel like they need their childcare provider to be supervised. I don’t personally advocate this option, but I also do not judge parents who choose it. I would advise parents for whom safety and accountability are top priorities to consider a daycare or preschool setting wherein the caregivers are themselves supervised, rather than hiring a nanny and monitoring her via nanny cam.

This recommendation mostly comes down to practicality. If you decide to monitor your nanny, how are you going to set that up? More than likely, you will need more than one camera, probably one for each room in your home. Once you have that set-up, you will need some method of monitoring the footage from each camera. If you have, say, three cameras recording throughout an 8hr day (which is an incredibly short day, most nannies work 10-12hrs per day), that’s 24hrs worth of footage. If you are going to review that each night, you will need to find a method for sorting through it. Even if you only review footage once a week, you will still need to set aside a decent amount of time to get through it all. You may decide you want the camera “just in case” and choose not to review the footage unless you have a specific suspicion that you want to double-check, but even this can prove time consuming if you have to wade through hours and days worth of footage.

A better solution here, if your concern is accountability for your childcare provider, is to use an accredited center wherein the caregivers are all certified in Early Childhood Education and are themselves monitored by a supervisor. I’ve worked in such a center and everyone employed, even those not directly working with children, had to pass criminal background checks and have their fingerprints placed on file in the local police station. Employees who were newly hired but not yet fingerprinted were never allowed to be alone with one child or take any number of children to the bathroom. There were – with very few exceptions – two adults in every room and the adult interaction with the children was additionally monitored by the center supervisor, who the parents could speak to about any concerns with caregiver/child interaction, which would then be followed-up. Children could be moved to a different classroom if the parent had issues with any specific caregiver without having to go through the disruptive process of firing and hiring a new childcare provider.

Some cameras have the ability to check in remotely, which can be appealing to see how your kiddo is doing throughout the day. However, this can also be a huge distraction and you may run into trouble with your employers depending on their policy for viewing video at work. A better solution if you simply want to check in with your child would be to ask your nanny to take snapshots or videos at certain intervals and send them to you via email or SMS.  If a parent asked this of me, I would be more than happy to comply. I’ve been known to just take a few photos for the parents without being asked, just to document fun things that their kiddo was doing. It’s completely reasonable to want to see your child, and you can absolutely find ways to work with your nanny to make that possible without having to set up a surveillance system. Some daycares have video feeds that you can tune into for this reason as well, making daycare another attractive option for parents for whom checking in with their child visually throughout the day is a top priority.

As for my views on this as a nanny: I would absolutely not work with a family who disclosed upon interview that they would be using nanny cams and I would absolutely quit working for a family if I found out I had been secretly recorded. 

What I would like to make clear is that this isn’t because I think it’s wrong or because I think that parents who want to see what their caregivers and children are doing are paranoid, it’s because I feel that a certain amount of trust is necessary in a parent/nanny relationship and I couldn’t work in an environment where I don’t feel like I am trusted. 

That’s what it comes down to for me. I need the parents that I work with to trust that I am caring for their children to the best of my ability. I take my job very seriously and would have a very hard time feeling comfortable in a work environment where I was being monitored “just in case” I should happen to slip up.

I should mention that I had no problem working in a preschool setting where I knew I was being monitored by my supervisor as that was simply how that job was structured. It made sense to be held accountable in that setting as the center itself would be liable if there were any issues with caregiver conduct.

As a nanny, there are fewer legal hurdles. I myself am the only one on the line if something goes wrong on the job. This places much more incentive on me to be accountable for my actions as I can personally be sued in the event of malfeasance and can’t “pass the buck” onto the organization I work for.

I’ve absolutely never fear any kind of “GOTCHA!” moment, either in person or via camera. Honestly, a parent recording me would be seriously bored. This isn’t because I never pick my nose or sneak a peak at my email, I’m certainly not perfect, but because I’ve always worked in other people’s homes with the idea that they could come home at any moment. I’ve absolutely never been surprised by a parent who came home without warning (though that certainly has happened) and had to scramble to change what I was doing. That has never, ever happened to me. I’ve been in situations where parents have been home while I’ve been caring for their children and never had to adjust my behavior as I simply always acted as if they were there in the first place.

Which is how it should be. A parent should be able to trust that their nanny is doing her best and wouldn’t behave differently if she knew she was being watched. And nannies should work in a way that they have nothing to fear if videotaped or if the parents drop by unannounced. Though I understand that this doesn’t always happen, a nanny-cam is not necessarily the best way to ensure safety and accountability. There are many other options, including simply not hiring a nanny if you know that you wouldn’t be able to trust someone with your children in a situation in which they were not immediately accountable.

The one thing I absolutely want to advocate for parents to do, should they decide to video monitor their nannies, is to be upfront about it. This is mainly for practical concerns; if your nanny finds out you’ve been taping her and she leaves because of it, you have to find a new nanny – which isn’t an easy process. Much better for everyone involved if the cards are on the table ahead of time. Which, yes, means that if you want to videotape your nanny, you will be narrowing down your candidates to those who are consenting to being taped. If you don’t, you run the risk of finding yourself with no nanny at some point down the road.

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