'Big Mother' is watching you: Increasing number of nurseries using webcams and CCTV
Initially launched in American nurseries over a decade ago, to enable parents to view their child and monitor their care, webcams and CCTV technology are now being increasingly used in UK nurseries.
Researchers have called webcams in nurseries 'just one of many modern technologies which over the next few years might change the relationship between children and parents' while creators and suppliers claim they want to make parents happy but not make staff worry.
There is a debate over whether webcams offer added security by allowing parents to view their child's interactions with staff and peers or present extra security challenges to a nursery allowing them to be viewed by people outside of the nursery.
Webcams and CCTV are typically accessed by parents during the time their child is attending the provision to see the nursery day unfolding, but nursery managers are also able to use the technology to review any accidents and understand why they occurred.
The Pre-school Learning Alliance supports the use of webcams in nurseries, but warns against allowing technology to become the main way parents learn about their child's daytime experiences.
Melanie Pilcher, policy and standards manager at the Pre-School Learning Alliance said: "Webcams can be a useful way to enable parents to see snapshots of their child's day, and there are many parents who find them reassuring as they allow them to check that their child is okay during the day.
"Of course, it's important that the use of such equipment doesn't replace meaningful engagement between practitioners and parents, as the best way for a parent to know and understand how their child is getting on at a setting, and what they are learning, is through regular informed dialogue with that child's key person. "In addition, while some companies market webcams as a way for employers to keep checks on their staff, it's important that settings already have robust and rigorous safeguarding and recruitment procedures in place for this purpose."
Peace of Mind
Parents, who have experienced webcams in their child's nursery setting, fitted by supplier Nursery Cam Ltd explained a variety of reasons behind their support of the use of a camera system.
Some parents claimed they would now never use a nursery setting without webcams fitted and say they had the ability to keep families in touch with a child's progress regardless of how far away they are.
One parent said: "I'm at work out in Iraq and am enjoying watching my son run around playing, I think that it is great for me to be able to see what he is up to while I'm away. Thank you to all the staff for the wonderfull job that they do with my son and the other children. Have fun and will see you when I get back."
Another parent, Kate Borhan said: "It was a very important point for our family to be able to see our son during the day, and was the final decision maker between our two favourite nurseries."
Providing the ability to view children during the day gives parents peace of mind that they are ok, and some said they do not even need to use the service and feel having a webcam is enough to know a high standard of care will be provided at all times.
Parent Rubeena Nishad Adbulla said: "Webcam in my child's nursery is an easy way to follow my child's daily routine, to watch my child interact with others and to keep up with my child's development. A quick peek would bring me peace of mind all day long."
Confidence in nursery
For Dan Powick, owner of Rendlesham Day Nursery and Bridge Farm Day Nursery, fitting webcams was one of the first things he and his wife did in their nurseries, even before employing their first staff.
He explained: "We opened at a time of great controversy for nurseries where a Panorama programme had just exposed inappropriate behaviour at a nursery with an undercover reporter. Therefore, our first priority was to give parents the peace of mind that web cams allow.
"We wanted them to know that we are 100% confident in our nursery and staff and we are happy for them to view us at any time.
"We have not had a single negative response to the web cams in almost a decade of running our nurseries. Parents have always found them very reassuring and many have used our service because of them."
Dan Powick, owner of Rendlesham Day Nursery and Bridge Farm Day Nursery
Mr Powick believes webcams allow parents to be confident in their nursery because they are able to see how seriously the nursery takes security and overall safety of children.
He said: "The majority of parents do not even log on each day but it is just the security of knowing they are there and knowing that our staff have to perform to a high level at all times, that they like. All access requires passwords and usernames and we are aware of who is on line at all times.
"A parent can only see their child for the exact times that they are at nursery and are denied access as soon as they leave. We believe that this makes the 'security' argument against webcams redundant. We have also been able to rewind the CCTV and show a parent how a child had fallen and hurt himself. This again gives huge peace of mind to them and has helped to establish an environment of mutual trust and respect."
Not all nurseries support the use of webcams in nurseries however, labelling the technology obtrusive and unnecessary for nurseries, claiming instead they should use strong and robust policies to ensure quality care if offered.
Karen Quinton, owner and manager of Bright Stars Childcare Services does not use webcams in her nursery operated from her family home in Sutton-in-Ashfield.
Ms Quinton said: We all know both as parents and practitioners that children are sometimes sad, angry, tired, excited, frustrated but hopefully most of the time they are happy individuals playing with their friends at nursery. My staff and I work hard to build strong relationships and trust with both parents and children and always give an honest account of a child's day.
"We have detailed policies, procedures and risk assessments in place and hold regular staff meetings and parent evenings.
"Also from my ten years of running a daycare setting, you can do a million things right but quite often only get remembered for the one time something goes wrong.
Karen Quinton, owner and manager of Bright Stars Childcare Services
"There is so much pressure on nurseries and staff from Ofsted (and some parents) perceived expectations that everything should be perfect 100 per cent of the time but as I consider myself to be a realist how can that be.
"Children will be involved in accidents and incidents will happen, but if you have a dedicated and highly trained and supported staff team who have a genuine interest and devotion for young children then I don't believe cameras are necessary.
"What is necessary is excellent two way communication systems so that children, parents are connected with the setting, feel involved, listened to, respected and included.
"That is the best way to convey your ethos, aims, responsibilities, build trust and be truly inclusive not via a two dimensional image that could easily be misconstrued or taken out of context."
A research project carried out by Danish psychologist, Vibeke Jorgensen in 2004 when the use of webcams in nurseries were first being explored, found one of the main reason given by parents in support of their use was to become a tool to provide parents with a feeling of protecting their child.
Mr Jorgensen, who is neither for or against webcams in nurseries, found parents primarily use webcams to evaluate whether their child is ok or not and to watch the relationship between staff and children.
Research into the use of webcams likened webcams to mobile phones and baby alarms as ways technology is going to become increasingly used as a tool used by a parent to build a relationship with their child.
To take part in our debate on whether webcams should be used in nursery settings visit: www.daynurseries.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/42/should-nurseries-allow-parents-watch-chld-using-webcams