For many parents, a carefree night out is a very rare occurrence, or perhaps even a distant memory from before you had children. It’s only natural to worry about your children when they're not with you, even if they're being looked after by a trusted babysitter. The slightest sniffle or a recent run of bad dreams and night terrors can leave you feeling unable to leave the house, just in case your baby needs you. However, it is essential for your own sanity that you do take a break every once in a while.

Every parent needs some ‘me’ time and every couple needs a romantic evening together without regular interruptions to settle sibling disputes, get food stains out of the carpet and do endless loads of child-size laundry. You work hard and you're an amazing parent, so of course, you deserve a social life. So, what’s the answer?

Finding the right babysitter and how tech can help

The solution to having a worry-free night out without the kids is, of course, to find a babysitter you can trust. Some lucky parents have a family friend or relative who they’'ve known for years and put the utmost faith in. If you don’t and you're looking to hire a new nanny, how do you find someone you can trust?

Mum and Baby

The worst part of searching for a new nanny is those first few hours when you leave your kids alone with someone who is practically a stranger. You can do extensive interviews, seek references and all kinds of other checks, but the best test will always be on the job. It’s inevitable – you will eventually have to give your prospective new babysitter a chance to actually do the job and look after your kids. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to simply leave your children alone with this new person and hope for the best. Technology is on your side, in the form of surveillance cameras or a ‘nanny cam’.

Is it ethical to spy on my babysitter?

Using a nanny cam can be quite a controversial issue. Some parents absolutely swear by them, as they just wouldn't be able to trust a near-stranger with their children without using such a device. They read horror stories about neglect and abuse in the papers and simply can’t sleep at night worrying about the same thing happening to their children. Knowing that a nanny cam is recording everything that happens when the parent is not at home can provide enormous peace of mind. On the other hand, other parents feel that it's perhaps not quite ethical to spy on your babysitter without their knowledge. To help you make a decision that leaves your conscience clear but protects your child, here are some things to consider:

Awareness of the law

Obviously, the last thing you want to do when using surveillance cameras is to break any laws or to violate anybody’s privacy. This is why it's important to do your research on the ways you are and aren't allowed to use spy cameras. The good news is that it is perfectly legal to use cameras inside your home and on your property, as long as the footage is for your eyes only and you don’t share or upload it online. You have a legitimate security concern for the safety of your children, so this is adequate justification for the use of surveillance cameras. However, you must remember that while your babysitter is on the clock, your home is effectively his or her workspace. Their privacy must be respected, so you mustn't place cameras anywhere where they may have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as the bathroom or a room they use to get changed in.

Baby in Cot

To conceal or not to conceal?

This is the biggest dilemma – do you hide the cameras and hope your babysitter won't discover them or tell the truth from the outset? It’s completely up to you, but bear in mind that it will likely ruin the relationship between you if your nanny finds out you’'ve been secretly filming him or her. They may be embarrassed, hurt and feel you don’t trust them, and they may even resign. The best course of action may be to be upfront and honest about why you're using cameras, at the interview stage preferably, and make it clear that it's about concern for your children rather than a lack of trust. Some people will be ok with it, some won't, but at least the situation will be clear from the very start.

Using cameras for a trial period

If you decide to use cameras and to tell your nanny about them from the start, you could make the pill easier to swallow by saying that it's just for a few weeks to see how it all goes. This trial period gives you peace of mind that you’'ve got a nanny you can trust and is a more understandable and reasonable situation for the nanny to put up with. If you decide to go ahead with nanny surveillance cameras, make sure you go for good quality products and pay careful attention to their placement.

Motion-activated spy cameras are a good choice for saving battery power and making the footage easier to view, as you won't need to fast forward through hours of the film where nothing happens. Some Wi-Fi surveillance cameras allow you to view the footage in real-time from a mobile device, wherever you are in the world. So, if you're out for dinner and you can’t relax through worrying about the kids, you can take a quick look at your camera footage on your phone and feel much better.

Once you’'ve found your perfect new nanny, you can still use your cameras to keep an eye on your kids when you're not in the room. You may even learn some fascinating things about your children and how they're developing through the footage that shows what they get up to when no one is around!