On Candid Camera: Video Services That Focus On Day-Care Centers Can Make A Parent Smile
By Siona LaFrance, Staff Writer
In Nina Nichols' brightly decorated beginning pre-kindergarten classroom at McMillian's First Steps Child Care
Development Center on North Claiborne Avenue, a group of 3-year-olds sitting at tiny tables concentrated over
worksheets, drawing lines from circles to circles and squares to squares.
A few miles away, at the city Health Department's Delgado Clinic on North Rampart Street, Connie Daniels logged
on to the Internet, entered an address in the Web browser, typed in a password and after a few tries, was rewarded
with a color photograph of Nichols' classroom, where her son, Marcel, 3, spends his days.
The still image came courtesy of a video camera perched high in a corner of Marcel's classroom and an Atlanta-
based Internet monitoring service called KinderCam. Similar cameras have been installed in other classrooms and
common areas in the center, enabling parents who have signed up for the service to see their children at work or at
play anytime during the day.
For Daniels, the program administrator for the health department's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, the ability
to peek in on her son without leaving work provides relief from the anxiety she sometimes feels when she's away
from her child.
"I like it because Marcel has asthma and I'll be able to check in and see how he's doing, whether he's got his head
down, or if he's sitting up or active."
She couldn't see her son's face in the slightly blurry image, but the sight of him working at the table was reassuring,
"He's sitting there, doing what he's supposed to do, and he looks fine."
Hundreds of child-care centers around the country are being equipped with video cameras provided by companies
such as KinderCam (www.kindercam.com), which installed the first such system in the New Orleans area this fall
at the Kidz Klubhouse, a new day-care center in Slidell.
"Parents, whether they choose to work or have to work are experiencing the same things when they have to leave a
child in a facility: anxiety, concern for the child and guilt," said Anthony Sparrow, KinderCam's executive vice
president of sales.
"It's not that parents don't have a lot of confidence in their child-care facility, it's that parents want to stay connected
with the child's development, even when they're not there.
"Almost every child-care facility I've been in has an open-door policy anyway. Any parent can come in at anytime.
We view (Web cameras) as an extension of a center's open-door policy, not as an intrusive tool at all. It's a
communication tool between the parent, the center and the child."
These systems enable parents to log on to the monitoring company's Web site and, after entering a password, view
the rooms that their children use at the day-care centers. Parents have access only to the rooms in which their
children spend time, so a parent of an infant, for instance, would have access to the nursery, but not the toddler
room. Parents also can view common areas such as the lunchroom and playground.
Linda McMillian, owner of McMillian's First Steps, said response to the system so far has been overwhelmingly
positive. The center in November moved into a newly renovated, more spacious facility on North Claiborne Avenue,
a few blocks from its previous location. She saw the Web monitoring system as an extra selling point in a very
"It gives us an edge. Parents love the idea of being able to log in to see their children, especially our working parents
who can't take advantage of our open-door policy," McMillian said.
Douglas M. McCabe, professor of labor relations, human resource management and organizational behavior at
Georgetown University's school of business, sees such Web cameras as a piece of another trend.
"This trend is part and parcel of a larger trend in American business and industry, which is the issue of employee
surveillance," McCabe said.
"It's not just an issue of parents wanting to see their children, but of parents wanting to make sure their children are
being treated well. If day-care centers were to install video cameras, it would be incumbent on them to inform all of
the employees that monitoring was going to occur. I would not want to see the use of hidden cameras."
McMillian and Jean said staff members are fully aware of the video cameras and have expressed no concerns.
"I always stress to my staff that they have to be ready for change," McMillian said.
Nichols, the center's prekindergarten teacher at McMillian's First Steps, said she is hardly aware of the camera that is
always focused on her classroom.
"We have our daily activities and as long as we're doing what we're supposed to be doing, things are fine. We're
doing what we always do, but now it's going online."