parents carry away a lot of concerns when they drop off a child
at day care, but a few centers are offering parents high-tech
reassurance: the ability to monitor child by simply logging on
to the computer.
There's a security in knowing that at any given time, you
can just plug in and check on them, said Tammy Barnett,
who, along with business partner Tianay Outlaw will be the among
the first to offer the monitoring service in Hamilton County when
their day-care center, Creative Kids World, opens in Springdale
It's not required by law, but I could see how a parent would
look at it and see the advantages, said John Allen, spokesman
for the Ohio Department of Human Services, which oversees licensing
of the state's 3,400 child-care centers.
Many centers, he said, do things to make their care more attractive
to parents, such as going beyond minimum standards which
mainly address health issues, for example, cleanliness and staffing
on items such as teacher-to-child ratios.
Video cameras are positioned in the classrooms and
other areas of the center.
The day-care center subscribes to an Internet server that
receives the images.
Parents, from any computer with Internet capabilities, use
a password to log on to the Web site and pull up the image.
Because the server knows your child's schedule, it takes
you directly to the area that the child is in at the time.
As day-care centers, like any other business, have to keep customers
happy to survive, Mr. Allen said he could see how the service
could start to catch on.
For now though, there are only a handful in Ohio that I'm
aware of, he said.
The video image parents see is not full motion. It's a picture
that updates every five seconds or so, depending on what kind
of modem you have, said Christine Austin Steinberg, the
founder of ParentNet, the company that provides the Internet service,
KinderCam, for Creative Kids World and Kids R Kids, which opened
in Warren County earlier this year.
ParentNet's KinderCam, established in 1996, isn't the only one
of its kind, but it was among the first to offer the service and
now operates in 35 day-care centers nationwide with a projection
of 1,500 more over the next 24 months.
Ms. Steinberg said she came up with the idea for the company while
working as a free-lance Web page designer. She'd placed her own
daughter in day care and soon found she was losing touch with
her day-to-day activities.
If your child is in day care 50-60 hours a week, you really
don't know them like you do at home. Most people can't leave work
in the middle of the day to go visit their child in day care,
but they might be able to pop online for a few minutes,
That's what Jennifer Parsons of Maineville, an administrative
assistant at CB Richard Ellis, a real estate brokerage firm in
downtown Cincinnati, has done almost on a daily basis, on
my lunch hour since April, when she placed her daughter,
Paige, 5 months old, at Kids R Kids.
I can see the teachers moving around; I can see them feeding
her, changing her, she said. My family down in Texas
pulls it up all the time, too, so Grandma can see her, too.
While most agree safety is the foremost advantage, it's just one
among many. We really try not to focus on the security portion;
it's really more of a way to keep in touch with your kids,
Ms. Steinberg said.
The cameras are not there to monitor the teachers; it's
so parents can participate, said Ms. Out law, who found
out about the KinderCam service on the Internet when researching
a business plan for Creative Kids World.
None of the teachers she has interviewed or hired, she said, has
had a problem with it: They'll see it; it's not a hidden
According to Ms. Steinberg, the cost to operate the system runs
about $12 per child per month depending on the package,
which includes equipment and installation and is billed
directly to the center. The center then calculates the cost into
Ms. Steinberg said she hopes to be able to offer the service to
day-care centers for free by partnering with advertisers whose
products and services would come up on the computer screen.
Ms. Parsons said she looked at several day-care facilities and
found Kids R Kids to be just about the same or a little
lower in price than those without the service. She said
she pays $160 a week for 11 hours of care, five days a week, and
in return, gets a whole bunch of piece of mind.