Is it Legal to Tape/Record our Babysitter?

Abuse or neglect of a child by a babysitter is a troubling problem. A less significant but more common problem with babysitters is when they don’t follow the rules. Perhaps you susptect that your babysitter is having friends over while babysitting without your permission. Or, maybe you suspect that she is spending the entire time watching TV, rather than watching your children. Many parents choose to address this problem by taping or recording their babysitter.

Hidden cameras, sometimes referred to as “spy cams,” are a tool that many parents use to monitor their homes. These cameras, which can sometimes be no larger than an ink pen, can be used to check on a babysitter. There are various types of these cameras, with a great variety of price ranges. Some of them are digital, some will record only video but not audio, and others act as more full-blown security systems. The downside to these cameras is that you have to have one in every room to be certain you are catching all of the activity. However, as technology advances these devices have become more and more inexpensive, easier to use, and less trouble to set up. In general, the use of cameras to record people is considered legal.

As of 2006, thirteen states have laws that prohibit the use of hidden cameras in private places. These include Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Utah. In these states it is legal to tape someone if they know that they are being taped. So, if you wish to record your babysitter in one of these states, it is best to notify them that you will be recording them, and then to ask them to sign a paper that acknowledges the fact that you may be recording.

In addition, most privacy laws cover areas in which one expects privacy, such as dressing rooms, bathrooms, locker rooms, and bedrooms. If you are going to tape record your babysitter, you should probably not place a camera in the bathroom. The bedrooms might be fine, if there is no expectation that she would be actually using the bedroom except for the purposes of actually babysitting the children.

Before setting up a home camera system to tape your babysitter, you should check state and local laws. When in doubt, it is best to get the babysitter’s written consent to being taped. This action alone may be enough to discourage inappropriate behavior.