Using a Webcam as a Nanny Cam (Part One)

nanny cam

There have been a number of stories about nanny cams in the news over the past few weeks.  A nanny in New Jersey was caught hitting and kicking a 6 month old child and another is in court for allegedly giving a child antihistamine.

We have written about hiring a nanny on this blog before but today’s I’d like to introduce the first in a two-post series about using a webcam as a nanny cam.  Using your webcam as a nanny cam is an easy, cost-effective way to get peace of mind that your children are safe when you’re not around.  Today, I’m going to talk about some things that you need to think about before you set up your nanny  cam.  Next week, I’ll talk about setting up your nanny cam and some tips for making sure that you get the most out of your nanny cam.

Getting Started: What You Need

Most computers come with webcams but if your computer doesn’t have one, you’ll need to buy a simple webcam.  The good news is that webcams are cheap and easy to find at almost any computer or electronics store.

You’ll need to be sure that you have a computer or laptop so that you can control the webcam, program any webcam settings and record video.

Most webcams come with software however it tends to be be a very basic software program that might control the camera’s operationg and not much else.  I recommend you look for a video security or video surveillance software for your webcam.  The webcam security software should include some sort of motion detection and then a feature that automatically records when motion is detected.  This will make sure only the important footage is recorded, like when your nanny is in the bedroom with your child or playing in the family room.  If you don’t have this feature, you will have to waste your time watching the footage to determine what is important.

DVR or Cloud: The Big Question

The biggest question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you want to store recorded video on the computer (DVR) or on the Internet (the cloud).

Recording the nanny cam video to your computer like digital video recorded (DVR) means that you will using up your computer’s memory to store webcam footage.  It also means you are leaving a copy of the footage onsite which means that it could be tampered with however if you don’t have a reliable Internet connection, this is the best option fo ryou.

Sending footage over the Internet (the cloud) for storage online uses up your bandwidth but it helps make sure that a copy of your footage is stored in a secure, centralized place in the event that you need to keep it safe.  Using the cloud to store footage is a relatively new means of storing nanny cam footage but it might be the best option for those people who want peace of mind knowing their footage is safe.

Webcam Vs. IP Camera

Another issue that I am asked about frequently is using a webcam instead of using an IP camera.  For most people starting out with a nanny cam, I would recommend that you ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Do I have a dedicated desktop of laptop that I can use for the webcam?
  • Is it possible for me to leave the desktop or laptop “ON” during the entire visit of the nanny?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, then you should consider investing a few hundred dollars in an IP camera.  An IP camera connects to your home Wi-Fi network wirelessly so that your computer doesn’t have to be “ON”.  IP cameras can cost upwards of $200 and if you feel this is too significant of an investment for your nanny cam, then I would recommend you start with a webcam and see how it works.  If you are unhappy, you can upgrade to a IP camera easily in the future.

Come back next week, as I’ll talk about setting up your system and camera placement.

Any questions about anything so far?

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