PARENTS can keep an eye on their children at daycare centres with the click of a computer mouse from their own homes.
Three Peekaboo daycare centres in Ontario, have become the first in Canada to install cameras linked to the Internet.
"We don't promote this technology as a safety tool. Rather, it is a sharing tool that allows parents to share in their child's day," says Paul Arkell, owner of the Peekaboo centres, which take children aged from six weeks to five years.
"It allows parents, especially of younger children, who have a lot of anxiety when they drop a child off and the child is crying at the start of the day, to check if it really is true when we say that five minutes later the child is playing happily."
Parents are given an access code which allows them to log on to a secure website. Once on the site, they must use another code to access their child's room.
According to Shelly Mitchell, supervisor of the Peekaboo centre in Mississauga, Ontario, neither the staff nor parents view the system as Big Brother.
"At first, when they start they know it is there, but soon it becomes second nature. "
Early childhood educators are divided on the use of video via the Internet.
Professor June Pollard, director of early childhood education at Ryerson University, Toronto, says the presence of cameras is a sign of a breakdown in trust between parents and care givers.
But Joanne Hunter, director of the early learning centre at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario, thinks that video on the Internet is just an updated version of the one-way mirror which many day care centres already have in place to allow parents to monitor how their children are dealt with.
"I don't see any reason why the technology couldn't be used in the early school grades," she says. "I think it would tend to keep people more accountable. It's not spying. From a parent's point of view, it is reassuring to know that your child is being taken care of in a reasonable manner."
According to Bruce Lofton, president of WatchMeGrow.Com, the company that runs the website for Peekaboo childcare centre and 75 others in the United States, 30 to 40 per cent of users are grandparents, including one couple in England who log on to watch their grandchild in Texas.