Are Nanny Cams Legal and What Should Parents Know?

A nanny cam is a slang term for an in-home camera and surveillance system. A nanny cam is intended to help you make sure your children are safe while they’re being cared for in your home. Nearly every day across the United States, we hear about cases of babysitters and childcare providers, as well as sometimes family members, being caught behaving in an abusive way on nanny cams.

Without the cameras, these people might not have otherwise been caught, and a child could have been in more danger.

Around 22 million Americans are expected to have smart security in their homes by 2020, but that number was only three million in 2014.

However, nanny cams do come with some ethical and legal considerations that you have to weigh as a parent. For example, according to the Lavent Law firm, there are limits to when we can be surveilled without our consent.

If you’re a parent thinking about installing a nanny cam, the following can provide you with more information to help you make a sound decision, legally and ethically as well as for your family.

State Laws Vary

As far as the legal implications of nanny cams, laws vary by state.
Just as an example, if you were to look at Florida’s laws, there are limitations on the use of surveillance cameras where someone should have a reasonable expectation of privacy. In Florida, it’s illegal to voice record someone without their permission unless the recording is made in a public place where a person doesn’t have an expectation of privacy.
Other states have similar laws, which is why many nanny cams don’t record audio.

If you were to break the law as far as a nanny cam and what you record, you could face fines, and you might be sued in civil court as well.
If you did catch your childcare provider doing something illegal on your camera system, it can’t be used in a criminal case if it was obtained illegally.

There’s an exception in Florida and some other places, though. If you make it very obvious, a surveillance system is installed, and it’s highly visible then that can take away the element of the expectation of privacy.
If you are thinking about installing cameras in your home, you might want to speak with a legal professional, so there are no gray areas as far as the laws in your state.
Additionally, you should never install a nanny cam in a place like a bathroom, or your nanny’s bedroom if they live with you.

The Pros and Cons of a Nanny Cam

Once you’ve looked at your state laws, you can start thinking about whether or not a nanny cam is good in your specific situation.
The main pro is, of course, that you can monitor your child’s safety. Many nanny cams will let you see what’s going on in your home in real-time, so you can check in throughout the day when you’re not there. Even if you’re not checking in on the nanny, it can give you peace of mind, which is important when you’re away from your children.

Of course, the biggest con of a nanny cam is the fact that if you don’t tell your childcare provider and they find out about it, it can break their trust. Many people view their childcare providers as part of their family, and a lack of trust can fracture that relationship sometimes beyond repair.

When your kids are younger, they can’t tell you what’s going on throughout the day, and you may want to see for yourself. You might not even find things that are necessarily dangerous, but you might see that your childcare provider is spending more time on the phone than with your children, for example.

Another downside of nanny cams is the fact that they might not show the context of a situation. For example, if you see your child crying because you have a camera in their bedroom, you may then see the childcare making a bottle.

A few other downsides of nanny cams include:

• If you’re installing a nanny cam because you feel like something’s not right, it may be better to go with your gut. A nanny cam should be a tool to help deter any kind of abuse rather than recording it. If you have a strong suspicion about something, it may be better to fire your nanny.
• You may have a false sense of security if you have a nanny cam, and that could lead you to be less vigilant than you would be otherwise.
• There are other people who may be in your home and may not like the idea of being recorded. For example, if your child has a playdate, are you going to first discuss your cameras with every parent?
• You should also be aware that if you have an in-home surveillance system and you were to, for example, get divorced, what’s recorded on there could be subpoenaed in your court case.

Many of the possible downsides of a nanny cam can be mitigated in a few ways. First, make sure you take all the necessary steps when you’re hiring a caregiver. Go through all the channels to check that person out and make sure they are who they portray themselves to be.

Do background checks, employment checks, and driving record checks.

You should also check their references and give yourself some time to see how they interact with your kids. You might even consider some drop-in visits during the early days.

If you still want to use a nanny cam, don’t hide it. Let your babysitter or childcare provider know it’s in your home and where the cameras are located. This way, there’s no breached trust, and you can still get the benefits of having that kind of surveillance without some of the downsides of these cameras.

A good childcare provider should be okay with you telling her you have nanny cams, as long as you’re open and honest.

Peter is a freelance writer with more than eight years of experience covering topics in politics. He was one of the guys that were here when the started.