Cyber Mum – What about the Babysitter?

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Like most parents with young families, you might be lucky enough to manage a night out on the rare occasion and organise a babysitter to come over and look after your kids.

A trusted daughter or son of a friend, a babysitter recommended by a friend, a qualified professional through an agency perhaps … Whilst this should be harmless enough, have you considered that these days there is a need to set some guidelines with your babysitter and your family about the use of online media while you are away from the house?

Once upon a time parents were worried about their teen babysitter inviting their boyfriend over.  Today there are new distractions for babysitters, and these dangers are in the form of online activity, texting, posts, privacy and lack of respect for your house rules for online use.

I recently heard a terrifying story from a colleague who left her six and eight year olds with a new babysitter, a friend of the family. While the parents were out, the kids talked the babysitter into setting them up Facebook and Instagram accounts, which she willingly did.

Or another, where the babysitter posted that she was babysitting at XYZ house tonight, and the parents came home to find a house full of teenagers who had just turned up uninvited.  Better still, imagine seeing photos of your kids with the babysitter and her friends plastered all over social media, tagging your home location and letting everyone know that they are home alone!

Before your teen babysitter’s online activity innocently puts your child in danger, I strongly recommend that you have a conversation about social media safety. Discussing the rules with a sitter can be awkward, as teens don’t generally have the same concerns about privacy as parents of today.

The key is to outline some simple, clear rules, then discuss them with your children and babysitter to make sure everyone has input, understands and is on board. I would even suggest typing up some guidelines and posting them on the fridge or message board in your home if you regularly have a babysitter in your home.

Every parent will have different views on what they want happening with their kids, but the below list is some of my ideas on what you might need to consider when working out the ground rules with your babysitter.

  • Do I want my babysitter Texting, Facebooking, Tweeting or Instagramming while babysitting, or do I want their attention on my child? (Unless of course, there is an emergency.)
  • Do I want the babysitter to take photos of my kids?
  • Do I want the babysitter to be using social media and including my kids?
  • I strongly recommend that there is no talking about babysitting gigs on social media pages – no one needs to know when or where your babysitter will be alone with your child or children.  “Social media alerts can be just as bad as letting a stranger into your home”.
  • Do you want the babysitter educating your kids on social media or setting up accounts that they are clearly not permitted to have?
  • Do you want your children to be someone else’s content?
  • Do you want your child’s name mentioned in posts?
  • Perhaps it’s okay to take photos or videos of your kids, but only to send to you as an update, and then they should be deleted.
  • Or perhaps you are more comfortable with the babysitter being allowed to take photos or videos of your kids and share them on social media, but they are not to use your kids’ names or your last name and are not to tag people or locations.

Most parents do want their sitter and children to be able to communicate with them while they are out, so I’m not recommending that you completely cut off access to electronic devices. But I am suggesting that you need to keep in mind online activity by a third party in your home is not only a privacy issue, it’s a safety issue that parents of today need to be aware of.

A good babysitter will respect your wishes and if they don’t, then perhaps it’s time to find one who will!

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