Millions of working parents hire babysitters, but letting a stranger into your home can be nerve-racking, especially when you hear stories like the one about a child-care provider in North Carolina caught on tape abusing a child earlier this year, who was later convicted of child abuse.
Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen suggests some high-tech and some not so high-tech ways to keep tabs on your caregiver.
You can buy a "surveillance camera" for as little as $100 at most electronics stores. They plug into your computer, look like a camera, and provide basic images.
The cameras being featured here are considered top of the line, and are often what people think of when they think "nanny cam." The cameras are hidden inside real pieces of equipment like an air purifier or a smoke detector.
The great thing about these cameras is that they provide really clear images that you can watch remotely. It's 2:30 p.m., you're at the office and want to see what's happening in your baby's room - you can log onto your computer and check it out.
How does this work? It's easy.
The cameras come with software that you load onto your computer. You connect a receiver to your computer which then receives signals from the camera which can be positioned in a different room. (setup should take about 15 minutes - very easy to do). There are different ways that this signal is transmitted depending on the type of camera you buy.
Suffice it to say that the camera communicates with the computer. This allows you to watch feeds live from another computer and record the images on your home computer to watch later.
Some cameras are all-in-one, they have a recording device located inside the air purifier, smoke detector, etc. When you get home you can load these images onto your computer and scan through them.
Obviously hidden cameras have come a long way from the old "camera in a teddy bear." Basically, Web sites like "Know Your Nanny" can take a small camera and install it in any piece of equipment -- clocks, iPod docking stations, smoke alarms, you name it.
Prices vary, depending on where you buy the product, but for something top-of-the line, you're looking at somewhere between $400 to $650 and up. But parents should check out their state laws before installing one of these cameras. All states currently allow you to record video on a hidden camera, but it's illegal in many states to record audio.
The Web can help you keep an eye on your nanny in other ways too. There is a stroller license plate that you can buy from a site called "HowsMyNanny.com." You pay $50 a year and are assigned an ID number. People on the street who observe your children and their nanny can log on to the Web site, type in the ID number from the license plate and send you e-mails about what your nanny is doing. The Web site was started by a mom in New York, but anyone can use it. So far parents in 10 states have signed up.
There are some other practical things you can do - that won't cost you a dime. Have friends, neighbors and family members check in on the kids and the nanny unexpectedly, or ask them if they saw the nanny out with the kids and how was she behaving. If your kids are old enough, ask them specific questions about the nanny. Also, this is something that I do, have your nanny keep a log. Every day she writes down the day's activities, from when and what the kids had to eat to when they took a nap, games they played, etc.
Most nannies have said they have nothing to hide and they don't mind the license plate, for example. But you should have a conversation with your nanny about this and if she doesn't like the idea of a nanny cam or a license plate, maybe she is not the nanny for you.
Part 1: Pay And Benefits
Part 2: Hiring And Firing
Part 3: Having The Hard Talks
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