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I know how silly it sounds, but it makes me feel better: I'm asking for a friend. (We've decided we don't need one, as our nanny appears to be far more capable than we - it might make more sense for her to film us.)

I'm not interested in legal concerns - we know our friend has the right to record video in his home without disclosure (at least in areas without an expectation of privacy for a visitor, like bathrooms, obviously).

It seems like videotaping someone trusted to care for your kids is reasonable in some circumstances - you want to be in a position with enough trust that you don't need to (and we are lucky to be), but realistically, can everyone expect to get enough in an interview and from references to be sure of what happens when they're away?

The question is this:

How do you deal with the notion of creating a video, essentially to test trustworthiness, without risking violating reasonable expectations of trust/privacy yourself?

It seems like taping a room without disclosing it means that you might capture things that really shouldn't be exposed. Someone changing clothes, after your kid pukes on them, a private phone call during a nap, etc.?

What are best practices here?

Note: I'm well aware that we have a philosophy site, but this particular question would seem to have much more personal experience in a parenting community.

  • I don't think there's an easy answer. Trust has to be built up from a solid relationship with the nanny. – Dan Mar 21 '14 at 17:50
  • I think that your location (country, perhaps state) have influence on the answer. – woliveirajr Mar 21 '14 at 19:00
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    @Jaydles No, I wasn't thinking about legally, although that has impact too. I was thinking on the cultural aspect of it, since diff. countries/states/cities/religions/ethnics have some role on social norms. – woliveirajr Mar 21 '14 at 19:15
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    I'd just not do it. If you don't trust the nanny without a cam, find a different nanny. – Robert Mar 28 '14 at 21:30
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    Just as a note: The legality, as always, depends on jurisdiction. In Germany, for example, it is illegal to record video without disclosure, even at home. – sleske Oct 9 '15 at 9:44
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I think, legal issues aside, that you should tell the nanny. Not because of privacy issues, but because it is more effective as a deterrent of undesired activities if it's in the open than if it's secret.

You don't necessarily have to state it upfront as 'We want to watch you', however; you can put it as "We want to be able to see our kids from time to time and see what they are up to". That's reasonable - a lot of daycares have 'cribcams' for their cribs so parents can watch their infants sleep, after all - and still has some deterrent effect.

This also depends somewhat on the nanny herself/himself. If you have a nanny who is very young, this is not only a good idea but unlikely to be too big of a deal, as long as she/he has some idea that such a thing is possible and not that uncommon. However, if you have a very experienced nanny, it may strike her/him as insulting or demeaning - particularly in cases like your own example, where the nanny is clearly more experienced than the parent.

You also should consider the reason you want this. Is this to make sure the nanny is engaging your children and getting along? Is it to make sure she's not harming them physically? Are you worried about her having excessive phone/TV/whatever time? Some of these are reasonably controllable; some are not.

If you have a camera in the living room, say, where the kids spend most of their time, you can see them playing and doing learning activities/etc. You might see how much TV they're watching if that's in view. You can't, however, reasonably expect to be able to prevent intentional child abuse; that's too easy to take off camera, whether it's known or not.

I would expect it to be helpful in some ways, primarily to watch to see how the kids get along with the nanny, and less helpful in truly supervisory aspects as those will be easier to avoid oversight. Realistically you can find out most of this through other means - spending the occasional day working from home or taking off to relax but being around the nanny and the kids, talking to your kids, etc. A friend of mine who is a nanny regularly posts on facebook (at the parent's request and permission) what they're doing and pictures so they can follow along and know their daughter is getting the most out of her day. These sorts of things will be more helpful, in the long term, than a camera; but of course if it is necessary to comfort the parent, that's up to them.

  • Good question. Another possible phrase could be "We happen to have cameras in the house already for security, if you're okay with their presence." – Mikey Mar 14 at 15:31
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I would inform said nanny first. Like Joe said, it would act as a deterrent. Deterring or attempting to prevent a bad action by the nanny is much better than having to clean up any mess she might make with the children or the house, be it emotional distress on the children's part or an actual filthy mess in the house. While people desire everyone to have integrity, most people will always do right when they know they are being watched.

If perhaps they are uncomfortable with informing the nanny, they could reverse the reasoning for the recording. Tell the nanny that the camera is there to ensure the children are being on their best behavior. Tell the nanny that it is in her best interest so if the children do get out of control, your friends can correct the issue so the nanny would no longer have discipline problems.

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I realize this is an old question, but it strikes me that the two other answers both advocate disclosure combined with what is basically a lie as to the purpose of the nanny cam. This seems neither healthy nor ethical to me.

You asked:

How do you deal with the notion of creating a video, essentially to test trustworthiness, without risking violating reasonable expectations of trust/privacy yourself?

It seems to me that you can't use a nanny cam and NOT risk violating reasonable expectations of trust. Lying about the purpose of the nanny cam ("for your protection in case the children misbehave" or "we want to see our kids while we're not there") will not work because the lies are obvious.

There used to be a time when we didn't think everyone had to be constantly under surveillance in order to behave properly. Be that as it may, if you find yourself incapable of trusting the people you hire to watch your kids, make your kids an actual priority in your life and take the time to watch them yourself. Or take the time to get to know the nanny, so you can learn to trust her.

If this sounds too harsh, think about this: You really can't disclose without making the nanny-cam pointless because if the nanny is really a child-beating sociopath (or whatever your friend has in mind to feel that a cam is needed), then obviously the nanny will watch a few youtube videos about how one goes about locating nanny cams, and then do her misdeeds where there are no cams. The bathroom is a safe bet for obvious reasons. On the other hand, if you DON'T disclose, then obviously you're not just risking a violation of privacy and trust, you're actually violating it.

If your friend really feels the need for a nanny cam to keep the children safe, then tell her she'll have to live with the fact that she's violating the trust and privacy of the nanny. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

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    I found the phrase 'make your kids an actual priority in your life and take the time to watch them yourself.' to be really unkind and problematic. Implying that any parent doesn't view their kids as a priority simply because they choose to work full time seems pretty unfair to me. (And it's further complicated by the fact that those types of views are way more often directed at mothers than fathers, although I'm not suggesting you're doing that at all.) – Jaydles Mar 8 at 17:00
  • Hmm, I don't think I'm implying that at all. What I'm saying is that you should not substitute a camera for trust. Either have someone you trust watch your kids, or watch your kids yourself. Don't hire someone you can't trust to watch your kids, because if you do, that means your kids aren't as important to you as other things (the question never said they hire the nanny because they work full-time, so I don't know what the "other things" actually are). – Pascal says Talk To Monica Mar 20 at 22:36

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