Parents Pay Private Detectives to Watch the Nannies
Parents Pay Private Detectives to Watch the Nannies
REPORTER: Still to come on Culture Shock we look at the new trend for DIY SIM card adjustments on the streets of Ghana but now we go to America.
For many people, paying for a nanny to watch their children can be an expensive business. But now in New York, parents are going one step further and are paying private detectives to watch the nannies who watch their children. For around eighty five US dollars an hour, a private investigator will spy on your nanny either in person or the specially fitted nanny cam. They'll check where your nanny and child are, who they're with and even how long your child is left crying. Does it sound overprotective? Well it certainly seems that there is a market for it, with nanny surveillance companies reporting business having doubled in the past few years. So we sent the BBC's man in New York, Andrew Purcell out on nanny surveillance.
ANDREW PURCELL: Tamara Pilblad is a private investigator with an unusual "specialism". She doesn't expose fraud or theft or adultery, instead she makes her living by keeping nannies and baby sitters under surveillance. She says America's child care industry is dangerously under regulated and open to abuse.
TAMARA PILBLAD: I have seen nannies who go all the way up to the Bronx to purchase drugs. I have seen nannies just completely ignore the child or children whom they're watching. And then I've seen things as extreme as a nanny having sex with their boyfriend in the same room that the crib is in and then handling the baby without washing her hands.
ANDREW PURCELL: For around a hundred dollars a day, her clients get custom fitted nanny cams installed in their house hidden inside a book, a cuddly toy, a clock radio, anywhere that's inconspicuous and has a good view of the room to secretly film what happens there.
TAMARA PILBLAD: A family have smoke alarms in the ceiling, the nanny isn't going to notice if they have some smoke alarms on the wall. They get a very wide angle picture, a hundred and ten degree view with sound, of what's going on when they're at work.
ANDREW PURCELL: I spoke with a young woman named Barbara who's paid to look after a nine year old girl on week days. And she told me that New York's nannies know that there is a good chance of them being watched.
BARBARA: I don't really know people who have been confronted but every body talks about it, about nanny cams and then everybody is always speculating like "Oh does he have one?" It's really… we know it's around here, the nanny cams, especially in New York. But I would like the parents to tell me about it before they like, get it.
ANDREW PURCELL: The International Nanny Association agrees with her. It strongly recommends that parents inform their child minders if they plan to videotape them. But as the INA's vice president, Suzanne Tuckire admits that's usually not what happens.
SUZANNE TUCKIRE: Let's a nanny applies to us. We've never worked with her before and we're checking her references. We will have families who she worked with saying "Oh we know she was wonderful, we were videotaping her" or you know, have a nanny cam and the nanny had no idea.
ANDREW PURCELL: When it comes to secret recordings, New York is a one party consent state, which means that as long as one person gives permission, it's legal to listen in on their conversations with other people. Parents can grant this consent on behalf of their toddlers so it's not against the law to film a child minder without his or her knowledge. Mark, who didn't want to give his last name, is a single parent with a three year old daughter. And he hired a nanny cam system last year when she started getting small, inexplicable bruises.
MARK: I saw the nanny being what I consider to be brutal. My daughter was sitting at the end of the couch, just being as quiet as possible, she would look that way, the nanny would just stare at her and for I don't know what reason, I just saw the nanny grab her by the arm and smash her into the side of the couch. I just, I left work, I was disgusted, I went home and I actually fired that nanny and stayed home. I've since hired a terrific nanny, I have a third nanny cam installed, I mean I'm so glad I do. Wherever I go, anytime, I can always tune in and I could look at the different rooms and it's just such a comfort to know.
ANDREW PURCELL: For Mark, checking and rechecking the video streams on his desk top has become part of his daily routine. Mark's surveillance system on its own runs to almost a thousand dollars a month. The upper west side of Manhattan where Tamara Pilblad does business is one of the richest areas of one of the richest cities in the world but she denies that her clients are just overprotective millionaires.
TAMARA PILBLAD: It's really not about people who are rich, it's about people who understand that the person watching your child is a virtual stranger and they love their children and they want to do what's best for their children.
ANDREW PURCELL: The trouble with nanny cams is that they don't go to the park when your child does. A number of websites already exist to warn anxious mothers about bad child care in public places, among them "I Saw Your Nanny" and "L.A. Nanny Watch". But for the truly concerned, and very well off, Pilblad offers GPS tracking, using chips hidden in cars or strollers that could be monitored by satellite. Or old fashioned covert surveillance: following a nanny around in person for seventy five dollars an hour.
TAMARA PILBLAD: Parent's go away, say eight o'clock and don't return till seven o'clock. There's a lot of dead time where a nanny may decide to go visit her boyfriend at his place. It's just a matter of integrity and knowing that your nanny has exposed your child to a whole other group of people who you didn't have the chance to interview or meet.
REPORTER: Andrew Purcell there, reporting for Culture Shock.