Video-taping nannies: is it the way to go???

Hazel McCallion Senior Public School
Mississauga, Ontario

By Katie W. (Grade 7)

Looking after children is a big responsibility. Many parents choose to stay home while their children are young; others choose a baby-sitter or a nanny. Parents must trust these baby-sitters with their most precious possessions and hope they will look after their children with the same measure of care as they would their own. But while the baby-sitter is alone with the baby, do we really know what goes on?

Recently, there have been cases where children have been abused by the baby-sitter. The most obvious one would be that of Louise Woodward, the English au pair that was recently convicted in the death of an eight-month-old baby left in her care.

Unfortunately, these cases are difficult to prove as the children are unable to communicate effectively to the parents what goes on while they are away. It is too late to help the child after the fact, so the option of using hidden camcorders to find out what goes on with babies and baby-sitters is very appealing.

Glenn B. left a camcorder running all day and found that his hunch was right. He said, "The nanny was yelling at the baby 'You're miserable, you're miserable'". He recalls, "She ignored him when he cried. We were shell-shocked." Using cameras may be the only way to prove how children are really being treated when parents are absent.

Video-taping is really the only way to ensure a child's safety and well-being while parents are away. Ask parents how they feel about their child's safety and it is guaranteed the response will be that they will go to any lengths to keep their child from danger. Small cameras being bought by parents and companies with names like "Nanny Vision" and "Baby Safe" are the first stages in the nanny-watching business. Whether it be to screen a prospective baby-sitter or to check up on one already employed, parents who resort to these methods obviously have concerns.

Glenn B., who recently bought a $1,500 miniature camera, asks, "Do you really have to have your kid really hurt to find out the facts?" He goes on to say, "The Woodward case is extreme but I'd never forgive myself if I didn't make sure."

Extensive reference checks and good interview methods are traditional ways to screen baby-sitters. But, if all you have is your gut feeling, how can you prove that you have an abusive situation on your hands? Today's modern technology and affordable prices have helped to encourage the video-taping of nannies.

This "spying" can help stop situations where a child may be seriously harmed. A case in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A., last year proved beyond a doubt that a child's life was in danger when the video tape, hidden behind the Christmas tree, showed that the nanny smothered a crying baby with a blanket. The nanny was convicted of child abuse.

Video-recording may seem to be the easiest way to prove one's suspicions. However, advocates of privacy and civil rights consider this method invasive. The taping of people's private conversations at work or taping in the bathroom or other private area is considered illegal. The location of the camera may be the deciding factor in whether or not this form of "spying" is illegal.

Ethically, most nannies or placement agencies believe that video-taping violates the trust needed in these relationships. Amelia Georgina, a live-in nanny, feels that parents who are suspicious enough to video-tape a nanny should fire her anyway. She also says she would quit if she found her employees taping her.

However, ask any concerned parent about his/her feelings on this subject and most will discount these issues. Sheri Ader, a mother of two who recently used a camera to screen nannies, put it best when she said. "The heck with the ethics! When the person is alone with the child, you really don't know what goes on !"

It is clear that video-taping baby-sitters raises many issues from ethics to trust to legal ramifications. A parent's natural instinct should be to protect his/her children at any cost. These young children depend on their family to care for them and keep them from harm. If video-taping is the only way that this can be done, then so be it.

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