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Should I Use a Nanny Cam?

Sometimes, the most straightforward questions have the most complicated answers. “Should I use a nanny cam?” is no exception. A simple “yes” or “no” answer can’t begin to touch on all of the concerns surrounding video monitoring your child’s caregiver. Whether there are underlying trust issues or you just want to be sure your babysitter isn’t allowing too much screen time, a nanny cam can give you peace of mind, and it can help you look after your most precious gift: your child.

The truth is that only you can decide whether this powerful parenting tool is the right choice for your family. In this guide, we’ll discuss some common questions and concerns surrounding nanny cams, as well as offer tips on what you should — and shouldn’t — do to ensure you are wielding it wisely.  

Should I Be Discreet?

One of the biggest questions people have when it comes to nanny cams is that of privacy. First and most importantly, is it acceptable — or even legal — to use a hidden camera to record your babysitter’s interactions with your child? The short answer is yes.  Not only can you install and monitor a camera in all 50 states, as long as it isn’t in a private location like a bathroom or live-in bedroom, you can even hide it.  

If your babysitter knows they are being monitored, the surveillance may encourage them to act appropriately. More discreet monitoring, on the other hand, can give you a closer look into your caregiver’s true relationship with your child. This can be especially helpful for families with non-verbal children or whose caregiver spends a lot of time in other locations that aren’t as easy to monitor. If you choose to go the hidden-camera route, modern technology makes it easier than ever to do so.

The tinier the camera, the easier it is to hide. Pick a small portable device to place inconspicuously around your home or in your family car. You can also purchase everyday devices, like clocks, photo frames, and bluetooth speakers, with built-in cameras.

A note about audio…

If you’ve done any research, you probably already know that many camera options record both audio and video. Audio recording without your babysitter’s knowledge is allowed in 38 of the 50 states that allow video recording, so know the speech laws in your state. You should also be aware that if footage is obtained with illegal audio, it would not be admissible in any court proceedings.

Should I Use the Cloud?

Whether you’ll be filming with or without your nanny’s knowledge, you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to access and store the footage. Cloud-based cameras are becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. They are easy to set up, manage, and access. You typically just need WiFi and a computer, smartphone, or tablet, and you’re ready to go. Furthermore, software and security updates are handled by the third-party manufacturer.

Like with any technology, however, there is a trade-off for ease of use. Off-site storage and management means monthly subscription fees, not to mention the fact that all of your personal video is hosted on a server somewhere. If there were ever a security breach, your family’s privacy may be compromised. Plus, cloud cameras may bog down your internet, since they are constantly sending data.

If you choose to utilize a cloud camera, we suggest going with one of the more popular manufacturers, like Ring, Blink, or Amazon’s Cloud Cam. More established companies typically offer a better-quality product with more reliable systems and customer support. If cloud cameras aren’t a good fit for your family, alternative options that you can set up on your own network with a specific IP address do exist from manufacturers like Reolink, Dahua, and Hikvision.

Should I Use More than One?

Unless you are OK with having “blind spots” in your surveillance, you probably should invest in more than one camera. Whether you are using a cloud camera system or a networked version, you can usually find multi-packs. Buying more than one at a time can save you money, and buying the same brand of cameras will ensure they work together seamlessly.

Don’t forget outdoor areas. If your children spend time in the backyard, carport, or splashing in the pool, you’ll want an outdoor camera (or several) to keep an eye on them in those areas. Major manufacturers, like Blink, offer outdoor versions of their hardware, as well as weatherproof mounts and accessories.

When it comes to ensuring your kids are receiving the care you expect and they deserve, a nanny cam can be a helpful tool. It can’t, however, replace a parent’s discernment. Whether you have decided to keep it a secret from your nanny or you have chosen to share that you will be keeping an eye on things from afar, you should still vet your babysitters, listen to your kids, and trust your gut. As long as you do, a nanny cam can do its job of ensuring your child’s caregiver does theirs.