Home security cameras can be great for warding off pesky porch pirates, keeping your pup off the new couch or recording your friendly neighborhood raccoon scaling the fence to sniff around your compost heap. What about keeping an eye on your kiddos while you’re out of the house? Or checking in when your babysitter’s getting them down for bedtime?
A smart cam can help with this, but you might want something a little different from the usual home security-oriented features. I’m not considering concealed cameras for this list, since that gets into some pretty questionable territory as regards privacy. Instead I’m weighing all the needs you might want met for your nanny cam: two-way talk, quality real-time streaming, options for story footage storage, and field-of-view and/or pan and tilt functions.
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Taking all these considerations into account, these are my favorite nanny cams.
Best overall: Wyze Cam v3
The Wyze Cam v3 is a super affordable camera that you can use indoors to check on your kids, chat with them using two-way talk and look back at past footage for unusual activity. If you use a microSD card, you can also enable continuous recording, so you can look back over a whole evening if you want to settle a dispute, for example, over whether one of your kids indeed stole the pepperonis off his brother’s pizza while he was away from the table. Wyze also offers a slightly pricier alternative to the v3 that can pan and tilt, if you’re trying to monitor a larger room, and I hope to test it soon.
Read our Wyze Cam (2020) review.
$36 at Amazon
$36 at Walmart
$36 at Best Buy
Best for privacy: Arlo Essential Indoor Cam
While the Arlo Essential Indoor Cam is fairly standard for a $100 smart camera — 130-degree field of view, 12x digital zoom, 1080p HD live stream, two-way talk, night vision, a built-in siren, etc. — it has one design feature that might make it worth special consideration as a nanny cam: its privacy shield. When the camera isn’t on, a quarter-sized white shield shows it’s not recording. When it begins to record, the shield flips. This makes it easy for caretakers and children to tell at a glance whether they’re being recorded, which makes maintaining privacy boundaries a little easier.
Read our Arlo Essential Indoor cam review.
$100 at Amazon
$100 at Walmart
$100 at Best Buy
A clever alternative: Amazon Echo Show 5 Kids Edition
If you’re less worried about keeping a digital log of your kids’ or caretakers’ activity throughout a whole evening than you are about dropping in to chat with them during that period, an Echo Show 5 kids edition may fit your needs better than a traditional camera. First off, you can drop in to chat, and the kids will actually be able to see your face. Second, your kids or caretakers can contact you through the device with a simple voice command. Finally, checking the activity log on the Echo is a nice, indirect way to see what your kids have been up to while you’re out — making sure not to intrude too much, but also give some helpful insights, depending on how much they use Alexa.
Read our Echo Show 5 (2021) review.
See at Amazon
Nanny cam FAQs
Is it OK to use a nanny cam?
Nanny cams do raise important questions about privacy in the home, parental reach and an array of other issues. Laws differ based on where you live, but it’s almost always illegal to conceal cameras in places where privacy is presumed — such as bathrooms. Otherwise, however, as long as the nanny or babysitter is watching the children in your home, you are generally within your legal rights to use a camera.
Whether you should or not — or whether you should tell the nanny about the camera or not — is a more complicated question, and one that you’ll have to settle for yourself. Some experts recommend telling the nanny about the camera as a sign of respect, while others worry that defeats the purpose of the camera: to catch abuse or other problems when they happen. In general, such issues can be at least partly avoided by performing thorough background checks on caretakers, watching how your children behave around them, and dropping by the house at unexpected times to check in.
Can someone hack my nanny cam?
The short answer here is: probably, although it’s not likely. That said, you can protect your device in a few ways. First, be sure to use a camera from a major developer with a solid track record when it comes to device security. Second, use additional security measures for your device, like multifactor authentication, local storage and video encryption, when possible. Third, use a camera with a clear privacy screen or a physical cover, so you can reliably disable it when you’re not using it.
Should I hide my nanny cam?
Although some parents hope to hide their nanny cams, our recommendation is to keep your cameras in an open space — clearly communicating your expectations to your children and their caretakers about staying in monitored spaces, calling using 2-way talk at certain times and so on. In general, establishing clear boundaries and expectations help build trust with caretakers and children both, while still giving you the ability to monitor your home while you’re away.
Is there a difference between a security camera and a nanny cam?
“Nanny cam” is used as term to talk about how a camera is used — as opposed to how it is designed. You can easily use a smart security camera, a video baby monitor or any other camera as a nanny cam. Generally speaking, I recommend nanny cams based on their monitoring and communication features — without factoring in devices made to be concealed.
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