Skip to main content

Is the nanny power-washing my kid?

  • Story Highlights
  • Recent cases have brought nanny cams into the headlines
  • Some states allow video recording, but not audio recording without consent
  • Experts and courts are split over whether nannies should be informed
  • Next Article in Crime »
By Sunny Hostin
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

Sunny Hostin is American Morning's legal analyst.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Is my nanny power-washing my kid? I have to admit, that is all I thought about when I first saw the video and reported on the story of Nikki Ramirez.


Sunny Hostin is tempted to buy a nanny cam, but has legal questions about hidden cameras.

She's the mother who was videotaped in February while spraying her 2-year-old daughter with a high-pressure water hose at an Orlando, Florida, car wash.

My thoughts went something like this:

  • Phew, thank goodness for that video camera in the car wash.
  • Just imagine what happens to kids when there aren't any video cameras and no one is watching.
  • Hmm, I don't have a nanny cam, and my kid is at home most of the day with our nanny.
  • Nah, she is terrific -- my kid loves her.
  • We found her from a reputable nanny agency; we did a background check.
  • Well, people can fool you. What if my nanny is power-washing my kid?
  • So I decided that I would order a nanny cam. Video Watch the car wash video »

    Surprisingly, when I Googled "nanny cam," over a dozen sites popped up. I could order a nanny cam that is hidden in a teddy bear. I could order a nanny cam the size of a pen light. I could even order a nanny cam that would feed me video, with audio, to my office computer, in real time.

    Yes, I liked that one. I could see what was going on in my home, miles away, at the same time it was happening. But the nagging question in my mind (and in the minds of so many other moms and dads around the country) was "Is this legal?"

    The short answer is a resounding yes. It is legal in all 50 states to use a hidden camera. So do I press click (and should you as well) and order the fancy camera with real-time audio?

    Not so fast. In many states it is illegal to record speech without a person's consent. So if my nanny is verbally abusive, I may be breaking the law if I tape her ranting without her consent.

    But, lucky me. I live in New York, a one party consent state. Bottom line -- I can record my nanny's speech without breaking the law. My friend in neighboring Connecticut is not so lucky.

    So now that I know that I can buy the fancy nanny cam and obsess daily and listen and watch her every move, I had to figure out where to put it.

    Now I had other questions as well, such as can I put a camera in her bedroom, where she sometimes brings the baby; what about in the bathroom, where she sometimes bathes the baby; can I hide it; do I have to tell her; and what do I do if I see something really bad -- can I turn it over to the police and will it be admissible evidence?

    The short answer? There is no short answer.

    Experts and courts are split as to whether you should use a nanny cam without telling your nanny. They are likewise split as to where you can place the nanny cam. Most agree that her bedroom and bathroom are off limits. But many believe that mom and dad can put a camera anywhere they please.

    Likewise, most advise that the safest thing to do is to put it in plain view and just fess up to your nanny that you have a nanny cam. Others say, no need to tell your nanny; it's your house. And what about using it at trial?

    Recently, nanny cam tapes have been found to be unreliable such as in the case of Claudia Muro.

    Muro was arrested and jailed after police viewed hidden camera video recordings that appeared to show her shaking a 5-month-old baby in her care.


    However, prosecutors in Florida dropped the case against her when experts concluded that the footage was not reliable as evidence because the video was "time-lapsed" meaning that the shaking appearing on the video may not have been shaking at all. In fact, the baby was examined and found to be perfectly healthy.

    So the question remains: to spy or not to spy? E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

    All About Child SafetyPrivacy Rights

    • E-mail
    • Save
    • Print