You might think that nanny cams are only useful if you have a new au pair taking care of your kids, but there are actually many reasons you might want to have a watchful eye-in-the-sky in your home. Consider the recent case of 12-year-old Hallie Pritchard, the California girl who made national news when she set up a webcam to catch her sisters going into her room and instead captured footage of a thief rifling through her drawers during an open house (the footage led to his arrest). The truth is that any time you have strangers in your home, you may want to know what they’re doing when you’re not looking, and in this respect, a nanny cam can be quite useful. But it can also lead to problems, so here are a few things you may want to consider before your decide to spy.
The most common reason to use nanny cams is implicit in the name: they’re meant to keep an eye on the person caring for your kids. And you can probably come up with plenty of justifications for installing them throughout the house. For one thing, you want to make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth. A nanny, babysitter, or other caregivers who let the baby cry in the playpen all day while watching TV and eating you out of house and home is clearly not the kind of person you want “caring” for your kids. And thievery, while you’re away, is also a concern. But of course, the biggest issues to contend with are possible instances of neglect and abuse. It’s just hard to know who you can trust these days, especially if, like many parents that have to hire help, you’re dealing with a revolving door of caregivers.
But there are also downsides to using this method of checking up on the hired help. First of all, there may be laws in your state prohibiting such behavior. In fact, each of the 50 states has laws against using hidden cameras. And several states have specific legislation banning the use of hidden cameras in private places (where people would not expect to be under surveillance, as in a private home). While it is equally illegal for a nanny to abuse her ward, charging her with such criminal behavior could also end with you facing a lawsuit. And wouldn’t you really rather prevent abuse than catching it after the fact?
Also, a good nanny that winds up discovering she is under unauthorized surveillance may not be terribly keen to stay with your family. While most professional caregivers are very understanding about your interest in building trust, they will likely be outraged to learn that you have hidden cameras taping their every move without their knowledge. The obvious solution here is to simply inform anyone working in your home that they will be under surveillance so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not to participate. Most will be more than happy to prove their integrity in any way possible (as long as you don’t tape their personal, private moments) and they will respect your right to implement home security measures and your desire to keep tabs on strangers in their home until you get to know them.