Nanny Cams: Better Parental Control, or Violation of Caregiver Privacy?
More parents are installing surveillance technology to monitor nannies.
May 26, 2011 — -- Melanie Hamilton returns to work in a few weeks, and in addition to diapers and feedings, the new mom faces the daunting task of finding a nanny.
"Looking for a nanny does stress me out … What if he falls?" she said of her 3-month old son, Trey. "Or what if something happens where he needs to be taken to the hospital, you know?
"This is a huge decision."
She says she wants a nanny who will care well for her son.
Hamilton is not alone in that regard.
More than one million nannies or professional babysitters work in family homes in the United States, and recent, well-publicized reports of nannies who've treated their charges badly have triggered a growing demand for technology to watch caregivers' every move.
"We're noticing a lot more information is being shared … there's a website where it's possible to post information about nannies," Risa Goldberg, the co-founder of Big City Moms, one of the nation's largest new mom support groups.
Goldberg says there's a growing interest among moms to monitor nannies online. On one blog called I Saw Your Nanny – which was founded by a former nanny -- moms, nannies, and even total strangers are invited to detail the exploits of nannies behaving badly around the nation.
Photos of inattentive caregivers talking on cell phones or speaking harshly to their charges are posted online. Postings describe sitters leaving children unattended in grocery stores, or even slapping children.
Mommy message boards and meet-up groups throughout the nation are catching on to the trend. They are posting similar nanny reports.
Many moms calls the cyber postings a means of protecting innocent children, but Denyse Kapelus is troubled by it all.
Kapelus is the founder of the 25-year-old Professional Nannies Institute. She worries that the tattletale websites are the 21st century's version of Big Brother, and that it may all spin out of control.
"I find it disturbing people can literally destroy someone's reputation on what may be a temporary lapse," she said.
Kapelus says she does not excuse the actions of bad nannies, but worries about websites that enable people to anonymously post photos of nannies that can be taken out of context. She additionally worries that the privacy of the nannies' young charges is violated when the photos are posted.
I Saw Your Nanny reports that at least 12 nannies lost their jobs after parents became aware of items posted on the site, and the site hopes to start allowing people to upload videos of nannies in coming months.
Donna Ellenbogen, a social worker who specializes in counseling young mothers, says checking out tattletale nanny blogs is just one of the latest steps parents are taking to take control of their nannies.
And with the proliferation of technology, Ellenbogen says she doesn't expect that to change anytime soon.
A growing number of Ellenbogen's clients are now tracking their nannies' movements during the day with GPS technology, she said.
These mothers typically place their nannies on a family cell phone plan, and track the nanny through her cell phone, to ensure that nannies are where they say they are supposed to be – classes, school pick-ups -- at different times of the day.
"It's giving them that sense of, 'I know what's going on,' or it's a false belief of, 'If I can't be there, this is the closest I can be to knowing what's going on,'" she said.
Add to GPS monitoring the hidden nanny cams that have been on the market for years – and made famous by films such as "The Nanny Diaries" – and parents have a dizzying array of options to monitor their caregivers.
"GMA" contributor Elisabeth Hasselbeck talked to a panel of working moms, and they were split on the question of monitoring their nannies.
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