PARENTS

Spying On Your Childminder Or Nanny

14/08/2014 16:49 | Updated 22 May 2015

Spying on your childminder or nanny

Nanny Debbie is 'rough and rude' with the little boy in her care. She sits on benches chatting with her friends while the child wanders around the playground, shoeless, looking for her.

And then there's a nanny whose name we don't know, but we have a photo of her sitting next to a little girl who's crying while the nanny looks the other way. The 'little girl was hysterically crying while Nanny tried to force feed her food she didn't want. At one point Nanny shoved the spoon into her mouth and clamped her hand over her mouth so she could not spit it out. The distraught child then vomited all over her plate while crying "I want my mommy".'

The reports and photographs on NannySightings.com make chilling reading.

They have been posted by concerned members of the public - usually mothers themselves - who have witnessed nannies behaving inappropriately. The hope is that the nannies' employers will check the website and find out the truth about what happens when they're not around.

Parents have always spied on their childcarers. Hiding 'nanny cams' in the home is still a common practice, and only a couple of months ago, horrifying footage from a nanny cam of a nanny hitting a baby got her sent to jail in the US.

And in the digital age, the Wall Street Journal reported recently, we're starting to see new lengths to which spying is being taken.

Blogs like NannySightings.com are springing up, as well as people posting reports on social networking site.

Meanwhile the website HowsMyNanny.com takes the policing to yet another level.

It issues parents with a numberplate they attach to their children's pushchair. The numberplate acts, to those in the know, as an invitation to watch and report on the childcarer pushing it.

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Members of the public can post their comments - using the buggy number plate as a reference - on the website, where parents then log in and read the verdict.

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So would you blow the whistle on a nanny who's no Mary Poppins?

Critics of the nanny-reporting phenomenon have pointed out several issues.

One is: How do you know for sure that the adult in question is not the child's mother? Often it seems obvious, but appearances can be deceptive. And the idea of public scrutiny of individual mothers' behaviour and for citizens to post reports on them online seems outrageous. Or the adult might be the child's step-sister, aunt, or grandparent.

Of course if a member of the public sees real neglect or abuse of a child, it doesn't matter if it's coming from a paid carer or their own family - it should be reported to the police. But if it's not serious enough to go to the police about, like letting a child run around wildly, or seeming bored, it's less cut and dried.

When you start looking around you, mistakes in parenting and childcare happen all of the time, everywhere, and none of us can say we are always 100% perfect parents. Exposing every minor problem - this child who needs a new coat; that child who isn't wearing sunscreen - would get nearly every parent and childcarer in England reported sooner or later.

If it's less than perfect parenting but something a mother might do, then why should a nanny be expected to outperform a mother?

Another issue is: There may be more to an 'incident' than meets the eye. A mother might have told her childminder to ignore her child when she misbehaves, for instance.

There's also the issue of who the reports are really for. Surely it's very unlikely that the mother will stumble across an online report on her childcarer's behaviour (assuming the reporter doesn't know the childcarer's name or the child's name, it is all anonymous).

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This is what makes the reports on NannySightings.com especially upsetting - who knows if the mother ever saw them and was able to fire the nanny in question?

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Also, these are American innovations, and here in Britain, we tend to be more reserved and fearful of sticking our noses into other people's business. So even when we know who the child is and have a way to contact their parents to warn them their childminder, or nursery, or nanny, is not the lovely person she should be, whistle-blowing is often a step people baulk at.

Charlotte Fall, founder of baby anklet company www.saffronbells.com, recently found herself in the awkward predicament of having witnessed some questionable behaviour from a friend's nanny, and decided to say nothing.

She explain: "I'd noticed her allowing my school gate pal's son to zoom off on his scooter around our village, sometimes so far ahead that he was briefly out of sight. I decided to delicately say something to the mother. After all, if he were my child I would want to know if something was amiss, safety-wise. The trouble was, every time I saw my friend it just didn't feel right to bring the subject up, somehow.

"I worried that in highlighting this issue she might feel I was questioning her choice of nanny – and therefore questioning her parenting style too. Which, of course, I wasn't."

In the end, Charlotte's dilemma was actually solved for her. One morning school run, as they walked along chatting, her friend's son whizzed off on his scooter. Charlotte says: "Although he was out of sight, my friend was completely unfazed and I realised that this was normal within their safety boundaries. I suddenly felt very glad that I hadn't interfered and blown the whistle on the nanny after all."

But what happens when a mother is warned but her reaction may not be what you expect; this can be even more confounding than the bad behaviour of the nanny.

Ruth, a mother of two, noticed at a playgroup she attends regularly that a nanny in charge of another mother's child was making very little effort. The nanny seemed disinterested in the child and spoke harshly to her.

Ruth felt it was her duty to tell her acquaintance. But the response appalled her. "She said that she knew her daughter was unhappy with the nanny and that she cried when she came each morning. But that she didn't think she could find anyone else to work the hours she needed so she was prepared to just stick it out," says Ruth.

"I was really shocked. I would never leave my children for a minute with a nanny they didn't like, who spoke to them coldly."

Having taken all the cons into account, surely working mothers depend on other mothers keeping an eye on their childcarer. When another mum says: "Oh yes, I saw little Fred in the park on Monday with your nanny and she was so loving with him," it's reassuring. And the same goes for when the mum who saw your child at nursery tells you how well-cared for she was.

God forbid that your spies or nannycam reveal anything bad, but in my view, a sensible mother is always going to want to know the truth, and take the appropriate action. And those who report behaviour which worries them should be thanked.

After all, if your instinct is telling you something's wrong, it's worth listening to.

What do you think? Would you want to know if your child carer was not caring for your child properly?

Would you ever go as far as nanny cams and online spy sites, or are they preying on our paranoia?

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