You're Not One Of Those Couples Who Secretly Videotape Their Nanny, Are You?Commentary • Opinion • children • ISSUE 38•38 • Oct 16, 2002 By Helen Parrish Helen Parrish Well, Mr. and Mrs. Hegan, you seem like a lovely young couple, and Courtney is an absolute doll. I'd be delighted to accept the job as your new nanny. And, yes, the salary you're offering will be fine, and I live just a mile away, so I can usually be available on short notice. I think this will be a fine arrangement for all involved. There is, however, one tiny little other thing. I hate to even bring it up, and I'm sure it's not the case, but I'd just feel better double-checking this before we move forward. Ken and Deborah, you're not one of those couples who secretly videotape their nanny, are you? I only ask because—and I'm sure you'd agree—the erosion of the individual's right to privacy in contemporary America is an unfortunate and disturbing trend. And no example of this trend is more alarming than couples planting a hidden videocamera in their home in an effort to secretly monitor the woman responsible for taking care of their children while they're out. It's just ridiculous these days, the way people are videotaping each other left and right like some kind of Orwellian nightmare. If we're going to be so mistrustful of people, why not place a police officer in every home? Sure, it would probably cut down on crime, but at what cost? Just because some nannies steal jewelry or slap kids doesn't mean all the others should be treated like they're guilty, too. Do you really want to live in a world where we assume the worst of each other, and go to incredibly invasive lengths to prove it? And how reliable are these electronic sentry systems, anyway? They can't possibly catch a perpetrator from all available angles. You can't mount a camera in every corner of the house, can you? No. That would be prohibitively expensive. So if someone were to, say, scream in a child's ear for 20 straight minutes for spilling grape Kool-Aid, they could easily find some remote closet or crawl space to do it in. Isn't it futile to spend so much time and energy trying to peep illicitly at a decent, honest citizen who's just trying to earn a living? Let's also not forget the poor image quality of these videotapes. You've heard how a camera can add 10 pounds. Who's to say it doesn't also make swats on a child's hind-end with a wooden spoon look far more painful than they truly are? I've seen some of these tapes of bad nannies in action, and it's often impossible to tell what they're even doing. Are you going to put your faith in grainy, out-of-focus video footage, or are you going to put your faith in people? It's your choice. Did you notice how I didn't ask for my first paycheck up front? Of course I didn't. Because I trust you. Let's think for a moment about that word. "Trust." What kind of world would it be if nobody trusted anybody else? Why, it would be the most awful place imaginable. No one could eat dinner without fearing it was poisoned, or go to bed without searching the sheets for scorpions. People who can't trust their fellow man don't go very far at all. The great Benjamin Franklin once said, "They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety." Wise words, indeed. I once worked for a couple who liked to secretly tape their nanny, and I found them to be extremely unpleasant—the kind of cranky, half-cocked people who fire nannies at the drop of a hat. Well, phooey on them! I was glad to be rid of them. In fact, I didn't even save their name or address, because, hey, who needs references from jerks like that? Not me, that's for sure. I'm just a harmless old woman, and I sure don't stand much chance against some big, intrusive police state. But maybe my voice and message can inspire others. Maybe I can do my small part to bring about a world where privacy is considered a sacred right, and the act of secretly taping somebody defecating in the laundry chute of an unfair employer is punishable by law. So, I beg you, Ken and Deborah, don't let evil win by insisting on surreptitiously taping me. I'm counting on you to take the high road.