Life Advice



Privacy in the Age of Home Cameras

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: I have a question about etiquette in our technological age.

I recently discovered that lots of people have cameras inside their own homes, and I found out that one couple with whom we are friendly has several cameras in their home. I discovered this accidentally, when one spouse was looking at their camera on their phone and their spouse was at home.

I don't really care or judge why people have cameras in their own homes, but my question is about guests and etiquette. I feel that if I were invited to the home of someone who had cameras indoors, I would be very uncomfortable if I wasn't told (and I might even reconsider the invite). For those folks who do have cameras in their homes, is it considered good manners to inform your guests they are being videotaped? I feel that anyone hosting guests who has cameras in their home should absolutely be responsible for informing those guests.

Any thoughts or opinions would be greatly welcome, as my social group is uncertain as to this question. -- 21st-Century Camera-Shy

Dear Camera-Shy: This is a great question because small video cameras in homes are such a recent invention and becoming increasingly widespread.

When it comes to security cameras in homes, it is the host's responsibility to make their guests feel comfortable. If you feel uncomfortable about being recorded, and the host has not asked you or mentioned that they have a camera, you have every right to tell them how you feel. If the host insists on keeping the cameras on, perhaps your next engagement could be at a restaurant or coffee shop.

The presumption when you go over to a friend's house is one of trust, and you want to be able to speak freely. If you feel you are being videotaped, that could be taken away from you.

Dear Annie: I have several friends who have lost a child, and they reply this way: "I have a daughter who's (age) and a son in heaven."


This gives some info to the asker without going into too much uncomfortable detail for either party. It also lets the mom control the flow of information that she's able to handle in that moment, which understandably changes given the ebb and flow of grief. And grieving the loss of a child never stops. -- Short and To the Point

Dear Annie: Please tell the sweet parents who questioned how to respond to the question, "How many children do you have?" to smile and say assuredly: "We've been blessed to have two. One here and one in Heaven." Because all little children go straight to Heaven. -- Marylou

Dear Annie: For those who are on the receiving end of this woman's response (or many others who have suffered the loss of a child), it would be pertinent to ask how long they have been gone and what memory do they enjoy about their life. Of course, also ask about the living child(ren) as well. It's never easy to hear someone has lost a child or is suffering fertility issues, which is another sort of loss. Giving value and being present with them is deeply meaningful. Thanks for this recognition -- Nurse Pam

Dear Annie: I usually pick one inclusive response that I could grow comfortable with over time. "I have two children. My daughter 'Jane' is married, with one baby girl and another on the way. Sadly, my son 'Billy' died at the age of 12 from an asthma attack." If the other person expresses remorse for asking, simply acknowledge: "Please don't feel bad; you couldn't have known. It can be awkward, but if I don't include him, it's as if I'm allowing his joyful life to be defined by the sadness of his death. The 12 years we had with him are some of my most precious memories." Then finish by saying, "That kid was so much fun to be around," or tell a favorite story from his childhood. When you share memories of your son, it brings him to life again. -- One Inclusive Reply

Dear Parents: Thank you for all of your responses.


"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to



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