Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Internet Privacy for Nannies & Au Pairs

Nanny and Au Pair Internet Use Do’s and Don’ts:

We have been discussing issues of privacy for nannies and au pairs. Using the Internet at work can become an issue as privacy as well.

The use of computers commonly pervades every facet of life. Yet, nannies and au pairs may not always have computers available for their personal use at their jobs. Despite this inconvenience, in-home caregivers cannot be disappointed if their employers choose not to allow their employees access to home personal computers or business laptops.

Even when au pairs and nannies own personal computers, the homes where they work may not have available jacks or suitable routers to accommodate the employee’s computer. In addition, there may not be enough space or a safe spot to place more technology in the home.

Plus, parents may want au pairs and nannies to concentrate on their charges rather than surfing the net during work hours.

If the employer does grant access to a computer in the house, the caregiver and parent should establish guidelines previous to use. The extent of the usage, as to the amount of time, the hours of use, and if the parents can inspect the caregiver’s emails must be clearly drawn. The type of usage might need to be agreed on; such as emails are allowed but downloading new software is forbidden.

Although parents ought not to inspect their employee’s computers and read personal emails, if nannies and au pairs are using parents’ computers they ought to follow the family’s guidelines and keep all communication business appropriate.

There are no federal laws prohibiting employers from examining their own equipment, such as computers. Some state laws protect employees from allowing employers to read personal emails.

But, it’s best to be cautious. Before sending emails or visiting websites, nannies and au pairs should ask themselves if their boss would mind. They must ask themselves if they would mind having their employers see the content of the emails. Even when employers allow these practices, it’s best to use employer computers sparingly for personal business.

Nanny and Au Pair Internet Use Do’s and Don’ts:

1. Nannies and au pairs must never use the parent’s computer without prior approval.

2. Au pairs and nannies must never intrude on the parent’s email or share their password or address without permission.

3. Nannies and au pairs must never log onto porn sites, illegally download any material, or surf websites that leave cookies or spam.

4. Au pairs and nannies must never leave abusive blogs, reveal any information about the employer’s family on an online profile, or engage in chat rooms from the parent’s personal computer.

5. If using the home computer, in-home employees should select a separate user with a personal password, distinct from the employer.

6. An appropriate use of the parent’s computer is to search for children’s activities, crafts, and resources.

7. Nannies and au pairs should use their employer’s home computer in a public space in the house and must allow the employer to look at the computer and examine the history whenever the parent desires.

The Internet is commonly used as an inexpensive way for nannies and au pairs to keep in touch with friends and relatives. Most nannies and au pairs have use of the Internet at their jobs. But, the use of an employer’s personal computer for non job-related usage is a privilege, not a right. If that privilege is allowed, then nannies and au pairs bear the responsibility to use it an ethical and transparent way.

Have you had any issues using the Internet at your nanny job?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a live-in nanny and my job is also my home. I honestly don’t think I could work in a home where they didn’t allow me to use the Internet. They don’t have to give me access to their computer, just let me bring my laptop with me to the job. I don’t care if they are my employers, if the parents monitored or searched my emails I would quit!

Francine in Portland

Anonymous said...

The parents actually did read my emails because I thought the emails had been deleted from the computer. I spoke poorly of the family in those emails. Deleting an email doesn’t really delete the email, it just allows it to be replaced by a new file at some future date. I understand that no one wants someone else reading their emails and it is an invasion of privacy (just like if they read your postal mail).

Learn from my mistake and don’t ever write anything you wouldn’t want the parents or children to read or hear in their home. If you are a live-out nanny then don't worry about it.

Anonymous said...

I am a live-in nanny and one of my charge’s got into my emails and printed them out and shared the emails with his friends. You cannot have much more of an invasion of privacy than that!! I don't care if other people in other professions can have their emials monitored by their employers I don't think parents should be able to monitor their nanny's emails. Flat out direspectful. I would never read theirs!!

Anonymous said...

I am an au pair from Ireland working in America and obviously live in the same house that I work in. If anyone purposely read my emails in the family I would be devastated. Email is my way of communicating with my friends and parents. It's a great way to communicate cheaply. It's important for homesick nannies to be allowed to email.

It's a real shame that some au pairs don't know what seems obvious to 99% of us. Obviously I'm not going to download porn on their computer. What idiot caregivers would do something like that?

I have been sending photos of the kids to all my friends and the same photos are posted on my facebook pages (like 200 photos of the kids). I never asked the parents because I know none of my friends would ever post the children's photos on web sites. None of my friends or family are pedophiles. The kids are cute and I want to share my photos with those back home.

I wonder how many nannies and au pairs really get in trouble for this stuff. Seems so extremely strict. These guidelines sound like they are created because of people in other industries who used their office computers while working. But I use my computer during my time-off for personal use in my bedroom. If the parents came into my bedroom or looked in my emails I would be very insulted. It's a shame that irresponsible workers in offices have made it necessary for parents an au pairs to have such strict guidelines. Especially since we live in the homes we work in.

Anonymous said...

I basically got fired after writing emails about the people I worked for. LADIES DON'T WRITE ANYTHING you wouldn't want the parents to read when you are working in their home!!

I don't think the parents were snooping even. As mentioned above, emails aren't always immediately deleted from the computer. Eventually stuff that is deleted will get replaced by new info and the mother saw some of my emails.

Sadly, I wasn't unhappy with the job and repected them a lot. But, everyone gets frustrated and angry at work sometimes. I was just voicing some opinions to my boyfriend.

The mom just explained that she just couldn't continue the work relationship knowing I felt that way about her. She gave me a month (gave herself a month to find someone too). She just felt like I can come babysit occasionally for the kids but knowing I was so frustrated with the parents I should find people I get along with better.

Don't worry I told her over and over that's not how I felt all the time. But the damage was done.

The advice in the article is solid. Don't get caught in the trap of saying or writing something you will regret at work. I know you may live in their home and welcome you as a family member. But it's still better to be safer than sorry.

Anonymous said...

At my first nanny job the parents let me use their computer, because the wanted me to research different things they wanted info. about, (i,e, swing sets, mulch, etc.) while their child was napping.

They had a program, I can't even remember the name- CyberSnoop? to keep track of the sites I visited and the times I logged on.

At my second job the family had a locked office with a computer, they never let me use it.
I had to go the library.

At my third job, the family suggested I use their computer while their child napped, so I could pass time and not get bored. We used to e-mail each other all the time- to give updates and I would also share photos of their child I took.

It was wonderful to be trusted and respected as a mature adult.

Anonymous said...

Yep, I agree, not a big deal. The family I work for has a little computer in the kitchen next to the phone so I can use it for emails.
The calendar is on the computer. Plus, everyone emails: school, parents, coaches, and friends for playdates... But I'm also glad to read the list in the article because it's important to just remember we are employees. Better to mention to the few nannies that are "clueless" to use the technology but be smart about it. But, it's a different story with the children. The eight year old googled "butt" and "poop" and got some narly inappropriate youtube nudey videos. UGH.
Nanny Sherilee

Anonymous said...

My last job the mother wouldn't let me use their computer. Absurd. I am in my 30's and been a nanny for more than 10 years with great references. I've had no issues with emails and computer use in the past so I was insulted that she wouldn't let me use it. If we needed to mapquest to get directions I had to ask the mom to look it up for me.

I think when parents get too strict they are controlling. Experienced nannies don't like to be strictly monitored, but allowed the freedom to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

My job now and jobs before the last one (where I wasn't allowed to use the computer) have all given me permission to use technology to our advantage. Not allowing me to manage emails for playdates and messages from the schools and activities was a real disadvantage. Doesn't help take that burden off the mother either.

To not be allowed to use the Internet in this day and age is really controlling and inappropriate. I agree with the guidelines listed in the article above. They are perfectly acceptable and appropriate. No reason why parents and agencies shouldn't have nannies "sign off" on these rules.

Professional Nanny Larissa

Anonymous said...

I would be VERY DISAPPOINTED if my host family didn't allow me to use my computer or access the at least email with their computer. I understand the dangers of the web. I'm not one of those weirdos. I honestly do not think I could stand living here in America for a year without my email and facebook to talk to my parents and friends. I use the web to do everything from looking up movie times, driving directions & send pictures to my loved ones. I can't afford to ring my family. I must have internet at least a few minutes every day.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with having internet use rules for Nannies and Au Pairs. It's the parent's house and your job to follow the parent's guidelines.
Career Professional Nanny
Miami Florida

Anonymous said...

I agree nanny in Miami Florida. It's a job and you basically have to do whatever the parents want. If they don't want you to email then you can't. Our main focus must always be the care of the children. But, it's not the smartest idea for parents to not allow nannies to use the internet or email because nannies can help parents a lot if they are allowed to email for their jobs.

Joy Wood, Career Nanny in Arizona

Anonymous said...

A tech savvy teen also read my emails and I was not happy about it. It's fine for nannies to follow the guidelines for using computers and the internet but children and parents have to respect our computer and internet use too.
Meg in Chicago

Janice St. Clair said...

My employers got a computer for the kids, and put it in a public area of the house. Starting this year, they asked me to use only that computer, since their own computers are used for their work and contain irreplaceable and confidential files. They were very kind to let me use the mom's personal computer up to that time, and to explain why they were asking me not to use it anymore so I wouldn't be concerned about their reasons.

I'm a live-out, so I don't use their computer much anyway. But if I were live-in, I would invest in my own password-protected computer.

I sure wouldn't write anything that would endanger my job in an email on a work computer or online at all, even knowing these people respect me and my privacy. I'm a careful and private person, and I wouldn't want any chance that my employers could see sensitive material, even by mistake.

Material posted online is all too available to anyone who wants to see it. I advise being very careful about what anyone chooses to post anywhere, bearing in mind that potential future employers will probably google your name before considering hiring you.

Anonymous said...

That's so true Janice. I feel like as nannies we must be super careful online, on our facebook pages, myspace pages, and blogs. Never write or say anything publically that might endanger your job. You gain repect by being respectful.

Although the guidelines may sound restrcitive especially to live-in employees they make good sense. Not everyone realizes that they cannot post photos of the kids they care for online.
I am happy I have this moment to comment while the child is napping. If we don't neglect our duties a little time emailing friends and looking up family friendly resources online shouldn't be a problem for nannies during their work day.

Samantha in N.C.

Anonymous said...

It's hard enough living in someone else's house and following restrictive rules. After being in college for four years than a year on my own to now live where I work under the strict view of my employers I'm just shocked that there is yet another way they can invade into my private space. I am sad that any parents could actually think they should be allowed to read my personal emails. I have a separate bedroom and my own personal computer. I'd be devastated. Such an invasion of privacy. I'm an adult. Being a live-in really is so stifling. This would never be an issue for live out nannies. Here's just another thing for live-in nannies to be worried about.

Ann said...

I am in a bit of an odd situation.

I am a live-out Nanny for a wonderful family. I do use the computer - whenever during the day I feel I need to that doesn't interfere with my duties as a Nanny - the parents put (a laptop) on the kitchen table for my use. Prior to that I did use their personal computer a few times w/o prior authorization because I will NOT give out my employers personal home phone number as a way for my own children's schools or daycare to reach me and I ask their teachers to email me with any concerns. I do not have internet access at home and after my commute and providing supper for my own children the public library is closed.

I have also been at this over 20 years (gosh I feel old when I make statements like that) and when my children have graduated high school (4 more years) I intend to go back to being a live-in Nanny.

Internet access or lack thereof might very well be something that (for me) decides whether I take a job or not. I don't think I could work for a family who didn't respect me in my chosen profession.

Visiting any distasteful sites isn't who I am anyway but I wouldn't recommend anyone do that when their profession is the rearing and love of children.

I would most be offended if the parents tracked my usage and w/o consulting me on how or why I was using the computer just based on time stamps decided we should part.

I do realize how fortunate I am to have such an incredible family to nanny for. They respect me and what I do and I in turn respect their decisions and follow their requests.

Anonymous said...

I agree Ann, just tell us you are monitoring us. Whether it's nanny cams, GPS, internet useage. Rhonda

Evans said...

My last job the mother wouldn't let me use their computer. Absurd. I am in my 30's and been a nanny for more than 10 years with great references. I've had no issues with emails and computer use in the past so I was insulted that she wouldn't let me use it. If we needed to mapquest to get directions I had to ask the mom to look it up for me. I think when parents get too strict they are controlling. Experienced nannies don't like to be strictly monitored, but allowed the freedom to do their jobs to the best of their ability. My job now and jobs before the last one (where I wasn't allowed to use the computer) have all given me permission to use technology to our advantage. Not allowing me to manage emails for playdates and messages from the schools and activities was a real disadvantage. Doesn't help take that burden off the mother either. To not be allowed to use the Internet in this day and age is really controlling and inappropriate. I agree with the guidelines listed in the article above. They are perfectly acceptable and appropriate. No reason why parents and agencies shouldn't have nannies "sign off" on these rules. Professional Nanny Larissa

Johnkfpz said...

I basically got fired after writing emails about the people I worked for. LADIES DON'T WRITE ANYTHING you wouldn't want the parents to read when you are working in their home!! I don't think the parents were snooping even. As mentioned above, emails aren't always immediately deleted from the computer. Eventually stuff that is deleted will get replaced by new info and the mother saw some of my emails. Sadly, I wasn't unhappy with the job and repected them a lot. But, everyone gets frustrated and angry at work sometimes. I was just voicing some opinions to my boyfriend. The mom just explained that she just couldn't continue the work relationship knowing I felt that way about her. She gave me a month (gave herself a month to find someone too). She just felt like I can come babysit occasionally for the kids but knowing I was so frustrated with the parents I should find people I get along with better. Don't worry I told her over and over that's not how I felt all the time. But the damage was done. The advice in the article is solid. Don't get caught in the trap of saying or writing something you will regret at work. I know you may live in their home and welcome you as a family member. But it's still better to be safer than sorry.