It used to be that the worst thing a babysitter could do was raid the refrigerator. But this was before Snapchat, texting, social media, and emojis. Today’s sitters sneak—or outright flaunt—something many of us parents don’t know how to deal with: constant texting, Instagramming, You-Tube-watching, you name it. So how do you dole out the rules?
Of course, the most important thing is that your kids are safe while they’re under someone else’s care. You might think the worst could never happen to your kids, but mobile devices just make getting distracted even easier, and that can have tragic consequences. Less severe than a major accident, but still disturbing, would be finding out your babysitter texted all night and ignored your kids.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when talking to your babysitter about your digital rules:
Spell it out. Teen and young adult babysitters have grown up with mobile devices, so don’t expect them to have the same relationship with their phones as you do. If you don’t want your babysitter texting or tweeting while on the job, tell them explicitly.
You saw your baby on Instagram, now what? As much as phones are part of everyday life, so is sharing. Your babysitter might not think twice before taking photos of your kids doing something cute and posting it on Instagram. If this is something that doesn’t feel right to you, let them know right off the bat.
Set screen rules. You’re probably used to talking to your sitter about when the TV needs to go off, but don’t forget to mention your rules around showing your kids videos or images from their phone. Most sitters probably have a sense of what is or isn’t appropriate, but if you’re in doubt, mention it.
Use tech wisely. Running a few minutes late getting home? Having an always-connected sitter can really come in handy when you want to send a quick text from a restaurant. Plus, the ability to send and receive photos can help you decide whether you need to cut a date night short if your sitter is reporting a weird rash or skinned knee.
You’re the boss. Hiring “digital natives” to babysit means learning to speak their language, and helping them understand yours. While you might never think of texting your friends or updating your Facebook status while at work, you can’t assume they feel the same. Once you’ve figured out your rules, you need to discuss them with the babysitter as a condition of the job. And while getting rid of a good sitter can be a heartbreaker, you need to be ready to take action if there’s any iffy behavior—whether it happens online, on the phone, or IRL.