Should webcams be used in early years settings?
Published on Jul 2006, Early Years Educator (EYE) Magazine Vol 8 No. 3 by Tina Powick, Owner, Rendlesham Day Nursery

When my husband and I decided to open a nursery, the first thing I looked into was webcams. My decision was based on programme I had watched on the BBC a couple of years before. While I was a childminder, where they had taken hidden cameras into settings and recorded a number of disturbing incidents. The programme then went on to interview an owner of a nursery in London who had installed webcams and had never looked back.

I thought this was ideal way to reassure parents that a nursery has nothing to hide and has that much faith in its staff that they are willing for them to be on camera while at work.

I knew how I would feel if I was a parent dropping my child off at nursery, and I wanted our customers to feel as reassured as they possibly could. Parents are made to feel guilty in whatever they do nowadays, whether it be staying at home, or going to work. If they choose to go to work, the last thing a parent wants to feel is worried about the level of care their child is receiving.

I wanted to make use of webcams but I was unsure how to go about installing them until I came across NurseryCam in a national magazine. It was a relief to come across a company that was 'doing it already' and was used to installing and maintaining the webcams as it took so much pressure off ourselves. The NurseryCam system is very up-to-date and it was reassuring to find out how secure the webcams are. Reassuringly, we are also able to monitor who is logging on.

When interviewing staff for the nursery, I mentioned the webcams to them. If someone had a problem with them, I would not recruit them as, to me, they must have something to hide. However, during the interviews, I found the opposite to be true - that most people were happy to be on camera as they felt proud of the work they did. They also were aware of all the bad publicity nurseries have been receiving lately and wanted to be involved in a nursery that disproved that theory.

I now have utter faith in my staff and not once in the years that we have been opened have staff felt threatened by being on camera.

I love the fact that when a parent leaves their child for the first time they can go to work and log onto the internet and see that their child is alright. Generally, we notice a surge of logging on when a child first starts at the nursery, then the parent gradually begins to feel reassured and logs on less and less often.

Within a year, we have grown from a nursery that looked after 12 children in the first week, to looking after over70 every week and I am sure that part of our success is down to the fact that this facility is available to parents.

Even if they do not use the service - if they are not on the internet at work - they are all in agreement that it is reassuring that we have the webcam system in place as it shows how much faith we have in our staff.

"I think it's a great idea to have NurseryCam... your little darlings are venturing out into the big wide world for the first time and it's nice to see how they cope... I only have to watch her for a few moments more to realise that everything is fine and she is just experiencing something new," says Connie Warder from Somerset. "Some people would argue that it is invasive of your child's time way from you, but the parents have to do what feels right. To watch or not to watch, that is the question. I think I will keep on watching."

My husband and I are now expecting our first baby and I know I will be an avid user of the webcams, not as a way of checking up on the nursery staff, but just a ways of seeing how my child gets on without me there.

It must be fascinating for parents to be a fly on the wall and see how their child behaves away from them. They are privy to a very rare insight of their child's behaviour.