Contractor Tips Blog


Do’s and Don’t’s of Using a Nanny Cam

 ‘Nanny cam’ is the common term for video surveillance technology used to monitor domestic staff, maintenance workers, or hired caretakers when homeowners or parents are absent from the home. With these systems, inconspicuous wall cameras are placed in key locations in the home to capture and record activity for hours or days at a time. Many nanny cam systems allow users to view recorded activity in real-time on a smart phone or online.

Nanny cams are legal in all states; however, users need to be careful that they are not courting legal action by breaking any privacy laws. If you are thinking of installing a nanny cam system in your home, here are some steps you should follow to avoid unnecessary complications. 

1)      DO be transparent

If you are going to install a nanny cam system in your home or have already done so, then you should share this information with the people being monitored. As part of the hiring process, explain to the babysitter, live-in nurse, or housekeeping service personnel that the technology is in place to provide security for your home and everyone in it. By being transparent up-front you can maintain trust, avoid accusations of spying later down the road, and weed out unsavory employees.

2)      DON’T reveal camera locations

It is never advisable to reveal the location of cameras to house guests, including live-in staff. In fact, as a general rule, with the exception of trusted family members, no one should know the location of the cameras in your home. Do not tell young children where cameras are located since children can let this information slip inadvertently or when pressured. By keeping camera locations secret you can prevent them from being tampered with. Also, depending on where cameras are located, there may be ways to operate outside of surveillance zones; house guests who do not know camera locations are unable to find these possible loopholes in the surveillance system.

3)      DON’T invade privacy

Cameras should never be placed in toilets, guest rooms, or other areas where bodily privacy or communications privacy can be infringed upon. It is a good idea to have designated camera-free areas in the home (for example, the vestibule or powder room) where staff can take care of private matters (e.g. phone calls) if the need arises.

4)      DO double-check privacy laws

In some states, it is illegal to own or use audio listening devices; in other states people can use them provided that they have the consent of the individuals being recorded. Find out what the laws pertaining to audio surveillance are in your county, state, or jurisdiction and follow them.


Are Nanny Cams Legal?

Many parents are interested in installing hidden surveillance cameras in their homes but are concerned about the legal ramifications.  Hidden surveillance cameras, often called nanny cams because they are often used to monitor child care providers, are a useful addition to any home security system. These cameras are easily concealed anywhere in your home and the video can be easily accessed remotely from the internet.

In addition to monitoring child care providers, they can be used to monitor workers in your home, elderly care providers, older children, elderly or infirm family members, or even pets.  If you have to be at work or away from home, you can still keep an eye on what’s going on in your house.

Used properly, video surveillance cameras are legal throughout the United States when they are installed in your own home.  They can be hidden in common areas, living rooms, dining areas, and most other areas of the home.  The one caveat is that cameras cannot be hidden where a person would reasonably expect privacy.  The bathroom is an excellent example, but there may be other areas such as a bedroom that could be stretching the limits of legality if not morality.

Another concern is that while video recording in your own home is legal, in many states surreptitious audio recording is prohibited.  Be sure to check the laws in your state and if in doubt, use a camera system that does not include audio recording.  You can also protect yourself by informing your caregiver, maid service, and any other authorized visitors to you home that a video recording system is in use.  It may seem counter-intuitive to let people know that a monitoring system is in use, but you don’t have to specify exactly where each camera is hidden and it is an effective way to prevent to prevent illegal activity in your home.


Nanny Cam Pros and Cons

Advances in video surveillance technology and on-line monitoring capability have made using video surveillance cameras easily within the reach of most parents.  These “nanny cams” offer many advantages for concerned parents, but before you decide to use a nanny cam you should consider the downside potential as well.

A nanny cam can offer additional protection for your child.  The existence of numerous cases of child abuse by nannies caught on video surveillance cameras proves that they work.  Parents have been able to catch and stop abusive behavior toward their children using a nanny cam.

Less dramatic but just as useful is that a nanny cam helps insure that your nanny is doing the job as expected.  You can be sure that your nanny is properly caring for your child and following your instructions such as feeding, bathing, and bedtime instead of spending her time on the phone or watching television and feeding your child a dinner of potato chips and ice cream.

Nanny cams are also great for protecting your property.  They can be used to monitor workers in your home such as a maid service or any other work you are having done in your home.  The flip side is that the nanny cam even protects these workers as well as your nanny from false accusations.  If you suddenly can’t find your best earrings or other property, you can use the nanny cam to quickly eliminate the possibility of theft and focus instead on where you may have misplaced them.

One potential downside of video surveillance is running afoul of the law.  These systems are legal when used properly, but take care to make sure you are not exposing yourself to legal action.  The main concern is usually audio recording which is illegal in many states so be sure to check the laws in your state.  Another downside is that your nanny may become resentful if she finds out that you have the system installed.  One way to avoid this problem is to let the nanny know up front that you have the system and point out that the system is not installed due to a specific distrust of her, but to provide better protection and security for your home, your child, and everyone else in the home including the nanny.

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