Do You Kiddie Cam?

Okay, it's Friday! Here's a light subject with a potential dark side, perfect for our Friday Free-For-All.

Busy moms, dads and pet owners everywhere: There's a new and improved way to connect with your "children" (two or four pawed) with an easy-to-use, inexpensive tool: The "kiddie cam." You set up a Web cam with a live Internet feed on your home computer and presto! You can see and talk to your family while at the office or on the road or even at the gym! Free Internet services like Skype and a variety of Web cam software make all this easier, more affordable, immediate and interactive than traditional Nannycams.

Now, in the interest of candor, I do not kiddie-cam. The last thing I want to know is what my children, now ages 10, 9 and 5, are actually doing to my home and each other when I'm not there. I have considered paying them not to call me on my cellphone with minute-by-minute updates (the record to date is eight calls from home in 20 minutes). But if my kids were younger, or if I traveled a lot, this would be a wonderful way to connect -- and tales like this recent one on that shows a mom with twin preemies whose camera revealed her nanny's neglect makes me rejoice that the technology exists.

Here is the dark side: No one needs to actually answer your call when you call. You control when you make the virtual connection. Now this is perfect for taking a peek at a napping newborn or teaching your parrot how to imitate your boss, but it is also perfect for spying on your child-care giver or perhaps, your teenage daughter and her study partner-um-boyfriend. Obvious ethical questions arise.

So do you kiddie-cam? Have you ever been caught on a kiddie-cam? What are the pros and cons to this brave new technology?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  February 29, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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No...I think my wife would be mad!!!


Posted by: happydad | February 29, 2008 7:31 AM

My kids are waay too old to be spied on.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 29, 2008 7:44 AM

Heh! If I had a kitty/"kiddy" cam, all I'd see all day is our two cats sleeping. Thrillsville.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 29, 2008 8:10 AM

We don't have a 24hr. live feed, but we do have a webcam and Skype. We use it to talk with friends abroad - the kids love ssing their friends and can show them things and I'm trying to talk my parents into getting rid of the dial up so the kids can do video calls with them as well. I'm not super tech savvy, but at least with Skype, you have to answer the phone, so peole don't just have a window into your home. I am trying to get some sort of Judy Jetson mask I can put on to do calls when I'm not all pulled together! It would be nice to have one at the kids school, just to get a sense of what's going on - it would be fun to see their world.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 29, 2008 8:30 AM

That CNN video of the nanny neglecting the premie twins really convinced me of the value of this technology when you have kids too young to talk. Scary but believable.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 29, 2008 8:39 AM

I would love to have this technology in my home and at my son's daycare. The reports I get on all the kids doing all these neat things, their comments to each other sound priceless and I get to miss them when I'm at work. If someone could show me or tell how to set one up I would love to have one. Any takers?

Posted by: tecatesdream | February 29, 2008 8:50 AM

"That CNN video of the nanny neglecting the premie twins really convinced me of the value of this technology when you have kids too young to talk."

Good point about those too young to talk. Also useful for keeping an eye those who care for the elderly and those too fearful or ashamed to talk.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 29, 2008 8:52 AM

My sister brought this up with the notion of having one in an aging relatives apartment. I guess it would just show things at floor level. The idea being you could see if they were moving around or just lying there in need of help.

I think it's intrusive. Our aging relative wants to be right where she is. Our observations of her frailties aren't going to convince her of anything. I'm much more inclined to think that a once or twice daily phone call, with appropriate action if nobody answers for too long is friendlier.

I could see having a video camera in a home that had a swimming pool or hot tub. It's not a substitute for supervision, but maybe it would avert a tragic disaster.

Posted by: RedBird27 | February 29, 2008 9:06 AM

"The last thing I want to know is what my children, now ages 10, 9 and 5, are actually doing to my home and each other when I'm not there."

Um, why are they being left unsupervised? I was never unsupervised at age 10, much less age 5.

Even a nannycam is NOT adult supervision!

Posted by: mucus99 | February 29, 2008 9:22 AM

Ooh - I love talking geek! :-)

tecatesdream - it really depends what facilities you have and what you want to accomplish, but it's pretty easy and cheap.

If you want to install a system in your house that you can check on remotely, live, you have to have the right Internet service. Get a web cam (or three, depending on what you want to cover) and connect it to your computer. They're cheap these days; 20 or 30 dollars is a good starting point. They can usually be connected to an application like Windows Live Messenger or Skype or something else. (If you have your own website you can have the webcam dump the feed to the website.) Then leave your computer on and connected to the Internet. As long as you're running a compatible application at the other end (Windows live messenger, Skype, or just a web browser), you're on.

Privacy's the hard part. It's one thing to be able to see what's going on yourself; it's another thing entirely to keep anybody out there from also tapping into your feed/website and seeing what's going on. Password-protecting your website will stop a lot of the folks who run around peeping into windows (pun intended), but it won't stop somebody who knows what he's doing.

As far as at your children's daycare center, they'd have to offer that service because you're also watching other people's children, who may not be happy about live feeds of their kids being out on the Internet. Most of the systems that day care centers use just dump the feed to a website, and give you a password that lets you access it. Again, not truly secure, but good enough for most applications.

It's really not hard.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 29, 2008 9:30 AM

Chitty, insightful comment at 8:52 AM re the elderly and others too fearful to talk about suffering abuse or neglect.

Corvette, your cats only want you to THINK they're sleeping all day. You'd be amazed the mischief that they get into when they think no one's watching.

m2j5c2 -- Happy 18th Birthday today to the Pocket Rocket!!!

Posted by: mehitabel | February 29, 2008 9:30 AM


"Corvette, your cats only want you to THINK they're sleeping all day. You'd be amazed the mischief that they get into when they think no one's watching"

I spied two different cats on two different occasions walking upright on their back paws in my house. Priceless!

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 29, 2008 9:36 AM

Chitty, you old softie!

Posted by: mehitabel | February 29, 2008 9:38 AM

My husband didn't use a kiddie cam but he used Skype to call his kids before they moved to the US.

This meant that he could call them whenever he wanted and it was free. It couldn't get any better than that!

Posted by: Billie_R | February 29, 2008 9:41 AM

Is Skype free? When I tried to set it up it gave me rates...

Posted by: mscindc | February 29, 2008 9:59 AM

"Is Skype free? When I tried to set it up it gave me rates..."

When calling from one Skype user to another it's essentially "free." That assumes that you both have Internet connections with flat-rate service and sufficient bandwidth.

That's because as far as the Internet's concerned a bunch of bits are flowing from point A to point B. It's no different than you going to and downloading something. There's no incremental cost.

If a Skype user contacts a non-Skype user, then there's a connection cost because the bits leave the Internet and enter the PSTN (the telephone network), and the phone companies make you pay for that.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 29, 2008 10:09 AM


Good point. I'd like to believe they live this fabulous life when I'm at work -- mixing martinis, throwing parties a la Austin Powers, etc., and then scrambling to put everything back together (you know, add water to the vodka so it LOOKS full) before I get home.

At the very least, maybe we'll finally catch the 'kitty litter tracker' culprit.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 29, 2008 10:55 AM

Oooh, ArmyBrat, good point! I'd love to set up a doggy-cam so I can watch my dogs snooze all day, but I'd not want someone else able to check in and see that my house is unoccupied (the dogs are useless as guard dogs).

Posted by: shandavegh | February 29, 2008 11:03 AM

When I saw the article title, I was picturing something more like David Letterman's "Monkey-Cam" -- actually strapping the webcam to the child while it runs around getting into trouble.

Posted by: tomtildrum | February 29, 2008 12:32 PM

My first thought was that I don't want to see my 15-y-o masterbating. No thanks. He needs his privacy, and I need to respect it.

I can see a point with the very young or the very old, though. And it would have been fun to see the 15-y-o's drama class performance yesterday when I had to be at work and couldn't be there in person.

Posted by: sue | February 29, 2008 2:23 PM

good point about using this technology to prevent elder abuse as well.

btw, i was talking about when my kids are with a babysitter, not home alone!

Posted by: leslie4 | February 29, 2008 4:10 PM

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