Nanny Cam: Yes or No?

Installing a hidden camera in your home? Not so fast. Be sure you know all the facts and nanny cam laws before you press record.

nanny camera

Nanny cameras, commonly referred to as nanny cams, have gained significant recognition and caused more than a few eyebrow raises in the last few years. News stories about nanny cams catching nannies "in the act" have caused many parents to buy a nanny cam of their own to keep an eye on things. If your family is considering a nanny cam, here are some factors to consider.

What Is a Nanny Cam?
As the name suggests, nanny cams are cameras placed in a house to keep an eye on your nanny, babysitter or au pair and your children. Typically, they are installed in strategic locations throughout the home to get a clear view of your nanny and child and, in many cases, the camera is hidden in an object or out of sight.

Nanny cams also aren't just for nannies. You can also use them to monitor pet sitters and housekeepers who visit your home while you're not around. Many day cares have similar surveillance systems in place.

What Nanny Cam Laws Should I Know?
It can be difficult to make the decision to purchase a camera, but if you choose to, it's important to know the legalities. Families can choose whether or not to tell their caregiver that they have a nanny cam. And there are two types of laws you need to be aware of: ones for video surveillance and ones for audio recordings.

  • Video surveillance laws: It's legal to install a nanny cam in all 50 states, even if you choose to videotape your nanny without her consent. However, you can't tape her in private areas of your home, such as the bathroom or a live-in nanny's bedroom. If you do install a nanny cam, be sure to do so in common spaces, such as the kitchen or playroom.
  • Speech laws: While you can videotape your nanny, several states have laws to protect against audio recordings. If you live in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania or Washington, you must notify your nanny if you have a nanny cam that records both audio and video. Not only could you be prosecuted for violating this law, but any evidence of abuse or neglect found on the tape could be inadmissible during legal proceedings.

What Are the Benefits of Installing a Nanny Cam?
The main benefit of a nanny cam is getting assurance that your children are being cared for effectively and safely. Trusting a near-stranger with your children can be extremely difficult, and a nanny cam can help you be sure you hired a responsible and honest caregiver.

It also might be a good way to spot things that you and your nanny need to chat about. For example, if you see her spending a lot of time texting, you may want to come up with an agreement where she only texts when the kids are napping. Do your kids seem to be playing indoors too much? Maybe they need frequent trips to the park.

Nanny cams can also help you keep tabs on your children when you're not home. Because you can't be there at all times to care for your children, a nanny cam allows you to watch them as if you were. It also offers you the opportunity to observe events in your children's lives, as well as see how they are learning and developing.

What Are the Risks of Installing a Nanny Cam?
Beyond the legal issues surrounding the installation of a nanny cam, you should also consider the ethical implications of such a device. If your nanny finds a hidden nanny cam, it's likely that your relationship will be harmed or she may even quit.

You may want to have a discussion with your nanny before you install the camera. Let her know why you're doing it and address any concerns she may have. She may be worried about winding up on YouTube. Who has access to the video? What do you do with the recordings after watching them? Maybe you agree to have the nanny cam in place temporarily for a few weeks or months as you're building trust, then reassess later on. This also is a great thing to talk about when you're interviewing potential new nannies.

Even if you do decide to install a nanny cam, you should still communicate with your nanny daily. Talk about what she and your children did that day, any issues that came up, plans for the following day, etc. And if a nanny makes you feel uneasy and you don't trust her to be with your kids without a camera, then she may not be the right caregiver for you and your family in the first place. 

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Comments (12)
Annie M
I have been nannying for a family for a year now and just recently found a nanny cam while cleaning. At first I was furious because I come to believe we had a very trusting relationship. I confronted them about it and they admitted to having the camera installed before I was hired as well as an audio device and have been actively using both all this time. I suspected at the beginning that they were monitoring me and I didn't mind because surely I would do the same as a parent. But after so long I assumed they we had a strong enough relationship that they didn't need to watch me or they would have at least informed me that they were. I stand strong in my belief that had I known they were watching, I wouldn't have done my job any differently. I know they are more than satisfied with my work based on verbal reviews and raises they've given me. The issue now is that the trust we had (or the trust I thought we had) is gone. I also think of the embarrassing things I may or may not have done (I'm a bit of a clutz) that they now have stored as a file somewhere. I feel as though my privacy has been violated by simply not knowing they had access to me 8 hours a day 7 days a week. There is an awkwardness that has come between the parents and I because they had not only been filming me, they intentionally hid it for a year. I say nanny cams are perfectly acceptable but TELL YOUR NANNY. Because if and when they find it, it makes for a really awkward and cold relationship if you're lucky enough to have them continue to work for you.
Posted: April 10, 2014 at 6:15 PM
Nannies who don't want nanny cams are just lame in my opinion. I'm a 21 year old that has been nannying for years. I was also a preschool teacher. The family I nanny for now is awesome! During my interview they asked me how I felt about nanny cams and I told them exactly how I felt: they're great! It's not an embarrassment to my profession. It's SAFE. These people didn't know me at first, and people are crazy and liars. It's easy to be fooled by some messed up people. Watch the news. There should be cameras in every classroom, any room where a babysitter is/nanny, any nursing home room, etc. it's called SAFETY. I do NOT like however, "secret" nanny cams. If your nanny is a good nanny, she'll understand your desire for a camera, and won't be upset about it. But putting one in without telling the nanny beforehand is just annoying. You don't need to hide it. And a good nanny will have nothing to hide either. Nanny cams are fine. It is a little awkward though knowing people are watching you! Just because I'm a human being. I DO things I'm front of a baby that I wouldn't do in front of my boss. Like sing randomly. Or fart. Or pick my nose. Or have my buttcrack sticking out when picking up toys! Haha just some examples. But that's the part about telling your nanny about the camera because it's breaking a privacy boundary no matter what. Just some thoughts. :)
Posted: April 02, 2014 at 3:43 PM
Terry D
I agree completely with Marie. Some people will say what you want to hear and not what actually happened and as Marie points out, there are not witnesses when it's just your baby and the Nanny.

I too had a caregiver eat everything, leave our 4 month old daughter in her bouncer crying while the nanny made food, or sat on her computer. She would say that our daughter was doing great with tummy time and 'putting her arms up and holding her head up'. My wife and I never once witnessed our LO do this when we were present. Guess why... because she hadn't.

Child care is very expensive and you should be able to expect a high level of care especially considering your precious child is the recipient.

Leaving you LO at home everyday for work is hard enough to do without having to fret over the quality of their care. People can be duplicitous. A nanny cam can confirm suspitions or alleviate concerns.
Posted: February 26, 2014 at 2:49 PM
Marie R
Laura P- do you have children that you need to have watched from time to time?? It's not easy to have to leave your child with someone you have only recently started a relationship with. We recently moved away from family and I had to find a babysitter for a couple hours twice a week while I went to to physical therapy. My child just turned 2 and doesn't talk yet, and something seemed a bit off when the babysitter would come. The sitter seemed wonderful and always told me of all the fun things they did while I was gone. She also knew that I didn't allow my daughter to watch tv or eat junk (not was she ever at my house at meal time) I felt it was odd that this sitter was always making herself meals at my house when she was only there for a couple house during the day (not during meal time) So I decided to put my nanny cam up. It was a beautiful sunny day(and my daughter loves going outside) and my husband and I left the house at 2:45 and were supposed to return at 4:30. We wanted to see what was going on with this sitter so we went and got coffee and within 15 min of leaving we turned on the camera and the sitter was sitting on the couch with a bag of our corn chips and had the tv on and was feeding our daughter chips while watching tv. THe next thing we know our daughter has the bag of chips and is going through it while the sitter is paying no attention and texting on her phone. NOt to mention she had her feet with shoes on up on our couch. My husband decided to go home and make a surprise visit but the door was latched. She cleaned up the chips and shut off the tv as soon as she heard him. When he left she went and got a box of crackers out of the pantry and finished that off too. SHe gave my daughter a container of cheerios and my daughter sat at the table for over half an hour eating cheerios by herself while the sitter lay on the couch, again with her shoes, talking on the phone-with the tv on again. I couldn't take any more and I barged in and fired her. This person seemed wonderful and I treated her like family- she was always quick to respond and always on time. It is really difficult when you have a child who is young and can not talk yet and thank God for the nanny cam. I would still be leaving my child with this 28 year old woman who completely ignored her and gave her junk food the whole time to keep her quiet. So sorry laura p if this is an insult to your profession, but I used to work with children too and completely understand why a parent would want to check in on a child- especially at their house where there are zero witnesses if anything happens.
Posted: February 18, 2014 at 11:38 PM
I was a nanny for a VERY nice family back around 1995, give or take...... the entrusted me with their two children. One child, was just a year, the other 4 1/2 years old. For my first 2 weeks the nanny that was leaving stayed on to show me the schedule that she had developed for the child. We also kept a daily journal on what the child ate, and yes even their "pooping" schedule which any parent knows is important.

Listen, I would not of cared if they had 100 cameras with audio or not. When you are a LOVING, TRUSTING nanny, what are they going to view? They are going to see that you are doing your job. They will see the love, and then THEY can go to work, stress-free, worry free, knowing you are SAFE, LOVING, KIND and it is a real honor to be chosen to care for another's child. SO if I were younger and doing that kind of work again? I say BRING IT ON!!!! You would always see me having as much fun as those precious kiddies, that although they moved away, and are now all grown up, I will never forget them. I did my job, and I am PROUD to say I did it well. I protected those children and loved them just as I would my own!!!!
Posted: January 21, 2014 at 2:11 PM
Photo of Ketreena H.
Ketreena H.
Right now I have a camera at my house and it is my husband at home with our child. I trust him implicitly but I miss my daughter and I enjoy being able to call in and say, "Babe, put her near the camera" and I can see her smiling and I can hear her on the phone talking. I love it and it makes my day at work so much easier when I can see her. When I come from a particularly rough meeting I don't need candy, coffee, or a smoke break (I don't smoke). I just need a glimpse at my daughter and I feel better. If I was a nanny I would take the camera as an opportunity to make parents feel good rather than an insult to me. It is such a normal part of our life now that if I were to find a nanny that was vehemently against it, that type of reaction would make me more leery of her than anything else. Technology allows you to be close to your kids when you are away from them, so why not use it?
Posted: December 09, 2013 at 7:24 PM
Kelsey K.
I definitely agree with Laura P. on this one! If you didn't trust me enough to take care of your children without being able to watch everything I do then why'd you hire me?
If you don't trust your nanny then you need to spend more time together or move on!
Posted: December 01, 2013 at 11:36 PM
Photo of Jacquelyn B.
Jacquelyn B.
Perhaps spending quality time with nanny and child or unexpected visits, is more effective. There should be a relationship between parents and care giver. There is more opportunity to make suggestions one on one. Cameras are okay, but recording without someone's permission in my opinion is rude.
Posted: June 24, 2013 at 3:23 PM
What if a family had told me that there were cameras but they were not armed? Later on I found out that they were. I know it says it's legal to have them without the nanny's knowledge but I still feel to tell me they were there but I was not being taped was wrong...
Posted: March 02, 2013 at 12:42 AM
Susan T.
I think there are pros and cons to Nanny Cams....I can't say that there good or bad. All I can say is that I would act the same on or off the camera. I could very effectively argue for it or against it so I am not sure where that puts me.
Posted: February 03, 2013 at 12:16 AM
Laura P.
If you feel the need to use a nanny cam, then you should just stay home with your children and not work.
They are insulting to our profession.
How about nanny cams for you child's teachers? And everyone else in your life?
Posted: December 12, 2012 at 1:42 PM
Photo of Barbara C.
Barbara C.
When you see certain things on video and have no sound, the chances of misinterpretation or taking things out of context seems very high!
Posted: September 27, 2012 at 4:53 PM
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