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Lauren B. Stevens
Lauren B. Stevens is a freelance writer and influential blogger. She is passionate about social media and literature.
Apr 10, 2017
Setting social media boundaries for our babysitter is not something that would have crossed my mind...until my son talked about the game he’d played on her phone. To be clear, I’m not concerned about the content of the game because I know our babysitter’s parents set strict rules for the media she’s permitted to consume. What took me back about this situation is that I never even considered the fact that a cell phone would be present at all (despite our lack of a landline).
Living in the digital age means that you need a social media checklist, in addition to emergency contacts, for your babysitter.
"It's important to not only be forthright with your babysitters about the rules that you want followed in your home, but also to be clear with your own children."
Assume that social media is going to enter the mix, either with your babysitter or your children while you’re away. Net Nanny’s President, Chris Rothey, emphasizes the importance of being proactive in setting tech rules for your babysitter, "It's important to not only be forthright with your babysitters about the rules that you want followed in your home, but also to be clear with your own children." Have a discussion with both your sitter and your children before digital media becomes an issue, so that your expectations are made clear at the outset.
If you’re okay with your child playing on your sitter’s phone, let her know; be sure to let her know if you have content concerns with any games that may be on her phone.
Just as you will with your children, explain to your babysitter why you’ve established tech rules, and emphasize that those rules are for both her and your children’s safety.
Parents often leave a list of contacts and step-by-step guidelines for routine, but neglect to take the time to explain what’s allowed and what’s off-limits...for both the sitter and their children. What tech gadgets are your children allowed to use in your absence? How much time are they allowed to be on them? What tech gadgets is your sitter allowed to use -- laptop, tablet, game system -- these are all items that need to be communicated before you step out the door.
“...photo albums are no longer sitting on your coffee tables; they're online.”
Are you okay with your babysitter taking photos or videos of your children? If so, discuss what is allowed, and what isn’t, in terms of photographs and videos. If you’re okay with photos of your children being posted on social media, are you okay with your babysitter’s friends knowing that you’re not at home? Rothey issues parents a gentle reminder, "Electronics can certainly be a valued way to establish a bond between babysitter and kid as they play games together, but the caregiver should also realize that photo albums are no longer sitting on your coffee tables; they're online. You need to be very careful with who you are showing those photos to."
Snapchat, for example, is a social app with a lot of fun photo filters -- my son always begs his teen cousin to drag out her phone and play with the photo filters. While you can save those photos without posting to an account, mistakes often happen, and information or photos you may not want to appear publicly can accidentally be posted to a stream.
I think it’s easier to ask that your sitter refrain from taking photos or videos of your children, no matter how adorable they are, than to check all of her social media to make sure that everything is set to private. Remember that photos contain metadata that can indicate the location where the photo was taken, and that your sitter posting about her sitting job lets everyone on her friend list know that she’s at your home without any adults present.
We’ve developed a quick and easy tech checklist for you to review with your babysitter, be sure to post it on your refrigerator or bulletin board for reference: