From murders to kidnappings, house helps have committed all manner of atrocities against their employer’s children. What if there was a way to monitor and record their daily activities?

An international publication recently ran an eye-opening story for parents. A young couple, Rowena and Jack Churchland watched a horrible video footage of their nanny mishandling and mistreating their 18-month-old son.

In the footage, the toddler is manhandled several times by his stonily silent nanny. She picks him up and flings him roughly against the mobile hanging above his cot and he bangs his head. She smacks him hard on the bottom three times, making his body shake.

In recent days, we have heard chilling stories of house helps who have murdered or kidnapped their employer’s children.

Working mothers have no way of knowing, for sure, how nannies handle their children, however much they trust them. The only solution could be installing nanny cameras in their homes to stem such evil acts.

We spoke to some women who shared their experiences with the nanny cam.

Aisha Juma, a mother of one and a journalist, has come to appreciate the importance of nanny cams. Together with her husband, they always thought of nanny cams from the start.

“I have changed house helps due to many issues, from hygiene to poor work, to poor handling of the baby. My hubby who works as an IT specialist told me he had seen a camera that he thought would help us monitor our house help,” says Aisha.

According to Aisha, they installed the camera in the living room, but after several connections, they thought it was not working but just decided to leave it there instead of doing away with it.

“We had a house help whom we trusted so much but after some time, things like clothes, toiletries and utensils were just suspiciously missing from the house.

We also noticed weird behaviour from our baby who is a year and four months. She had become violent and could say words like chapa then hit herself as if to show how it is done,” she says.

During the baby’s meal times, the house help harassed her and that’s when they thought something was amiss.

“As much as she was neat and organised the home well, we couldn’t stand it anymore and decided to pay her her dues and get rid of her. She had been our nanny for a year,” she says.

Aisha offers: “The interesting bit is that before she left, she confessed that she was the one who had been stealing stuff from the house. After one week, my husband alerted me that he had noticed something from the camera. Apparently, the camera which we thought was not working, had recorded some events.”

It showed that a day before the nanny left, she had beaten the child who cried nonstop for about 30 minutes.

When they brought in a new house girl, they left the camera intact to monitor her when they were away.

“We could see that she was eating more of the baby’s food when it was time to feed her and was glued to the TV most of the time. But the good thing is that she is so friendly to my daughter who adores her, and that gives me peace of mind,” she says.

Aisha now says she will continue having the nanny camera in place.

Domestic manager

“It helps you to know the kind of person you have in the house, and at least, have a rough idea of what happens when you are away. If I had money to buy more cameras, I would have wired every room in my house, even the balcony. I would advise any mother to install a nanny cam,” she says.

Susan Muyale, a mother of one, says she considers installing cameras in her house for the safety of her daughter, especially after she confessed to her that the former domestic manager used to beat her.

“We were having those mum-daughter talks one evening when she finally opened up to me about it. I felt disappointed,” she says.

She offers: “My daughter is very active and nothing seemed amiss. Perhaps she got used to the beatings and saw them as normal. My current domestic manager usually raises her voice at her, and I was concerned and asked her if she beats her. She denied but told me the former one used to.” Susan now says a hidden camera is the way to go.

Lucy Azenga thinks it’s a good idea but she wouldn’t install one.

“Once I find out my children have been mishandled by the nanny, depending on the ‘assault’, I will take action. I can sack or report her to the police. But then, that will be the beginning of my worries and mistrust for any other nanny I employ,” she says.

“I will not be at peace whenever am away from my children. She will either be spanking or mistreating the children outside the house.”

The biggest benefit of nanny cams is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your children and your home are safe.

In spite of the benefits, it is important to weigh between the laws regulating the use of a nanny cam, and the resultant effects of spying on your nanny on your relationship.

Donald Rabala, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, says an employer may have the option of informing the nanny about the hidden camera. This may, however, ensure the nanny performs her evil acts as far away as possible from the glare of the camera.

“In this era, it is important to note that people can cook a video, hence it is demanded that every video that is to be presented as evidence in court has to be from an authority figure, such as the police. If its private, then you cannot produce it as evidence, but it can be used by the police to form the basis of an investigation,” says Rabala.

“If you put a camera in your house and your house girl happens to do something harmful to your child, you can only produce it to the police who can use it to form the basis of investigating the house girl. That’s why other than the private camera, it is also important to have the police camera in place because it is the one that can be used as evidence,” he says.

According to Dr Catherine Syengo Mutisya, a Consultant Psychiatrist and Family coach, the cameras help you keep your children safe, but that’s not to say that all nannies are a danger to children. To some people, the potential for harm outweighs the trust between employer and nanny.

 “Maybe it’s the way to go. I think for those who can afford it, it would be a good monitor. However, it is good for an employer to treat the nanny fairly so that she isn’t bitter,” says Dr Syengo.

What exactly are nanny cameras?

Nanny cams are tiny hidden cameras to keep an eye on what happens in one’s home. They are normally installed within a common household object. Nanny cams run off of battery and electrical wiring.

With Sh10,000, one can get a reasonable one.

Those disguised as common household objects that run off of an electrical cord, such as an alarm clock or clock radio, are powered by the electrical cord. Those disguised as objects without cords, such as a teddy bear, are powered by batteries.

Most nanny cams do not record onto themselves, so a recording medium is required. A nanny cam can be wired by connecting it to a digital video recorder or video cassette recording using a cable. Additionally, some wireless nanny cams transmit a signal to a receiver that is connected to the DVR or VCR.

Some nanny cams are also able to send the video feed to the user’s computer or cell phone, which allows parents to access the footage the cameras are capturing.

The process of installation is easy, provided you have the right apparatus. The construction or plan of your house plays a major role in the installation of the spy camera.

A wireless cam can be hidden in all kinds of items you would find in your house, including wall clocks and flower vases. They can be placed almost anywhere in the house.

Besides nanny cams, one can also do with the assistance of the neighbour next door who can keep checking on your household to ensure that everything is okay.

On the other hand, some mothers find sneaking into the home from work once in a while at some unimaginable hours workable.

They, perhaps, get to catch the house girl red handed in case they are doing something inappropriate.