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Parent surveillance

In our June issue we addressed the nanny surveillance phenomenon, and judging from this Sunday’s New York Times, the topic isn’t going to fizzle out anytime soon. In a lengthy piece on the cover of the Times’ City section, Caroline H. Dworin delved into the ambiguities of online Nanny watchdog sites like Isawyournanny.blogspot.com.

Here’s the recap: The aforementioned site gives parents an opportunity to file anonymous posts, sometimes accompanied with pictures, that report various nanny wrongdoings. No direct contact with the delinquent caretaker is required; all a contributing blogger has to do is witness a nanny behaving badly. Thus far most postings have come from New York City.

Dworin writes:

“Many of the sightings have the intricacy of a police report, including the date, time and location of the incident, along with detailed descriptions (“Adult female, 30-38 y.o., 120-140 lbs. ... wearing a large khaki-colored jacket with lots of snaps and zippers”). Sometimes the post is accompanied by hastily snapped cellphone shots, with faces partly obscured by the Web master.”

The site was launched in August of last year, and thus far has had 1.7 million hits. Topics of recent posts range in degrees of severity, from a nanny not bringing a child's sweater to the playground to a caretaker covertly and regularly leaving her employer’s children at an unlicensed daycare.

Despite its popularity, many criticize the site for egging on neurotic parents and stepping beyond the borders of privacy.

“There are a lot of nosy, neurotic parents out there,” said Lisa Iulo, a Park Slope parent, in the Times. “I say just leave it alone unless you see the woman shaking the kid. But I’m not your typical Park Slope parent.”

Some see it as a beneficial way to initiate discussion.

Dworin quoted Jennifer Gardner, an Upper East Side mom:

“It’s a way to open dialogue.” In her opinion, a parent should not necessarily fire a nanny sighted on the blog, but rather might use the post to discuss behaviors, like disciplinary methods, that may be culturally based. “I see it as a nice way to let people know what’s going on and to deal with it in their own way.”

As expected, child care agencies are now preparing their nannies for the high possibility that their performance will be recorded:

“I tell them to expect a nanny cam in the home at all times,” Ms. Magaro said in the Times. “If you always act as if there is one, you’ll have no problem.”

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