Five Issues of Online Safety to Discuss With Your Babysitter

You’ve waited all week and now it’s finally here: date night! You’ve found a babysitter, checked their references, and left a list of emergency contact information. Your highly recommended babysitter even has certified training! According to your thoughtfully laid plans, the babysitter knows what to serve your kids for dinner, whether to limit your kids’ screen time, and when to put them to bed. But there’s one more conversation to have before you leave for date night. In this age of over-sharing, it’s important to talk to your babysitter about your expectations for digital safety. 

Here are five important areas to address:

1. Taking photos and videos. By now, it seems like second nature to record your child belting out their best ballad, but are you comfortable with your babysitter taking photos or videos of your future Broadway star? Some parents enjoy the occasional update on their phone from their sitter, especially if it’s a photo of your child napping happily. But if you prefer a ‘no photos’ policy, let your babysitter know it’s not okay to hit record.

2. Sharing photos and videos. Any social media timeline will tell you that kids are a big hit online. It may be tempting, almost understandable, for your babysitter to post an adorable photo or video of your child’s antics. Several babysitting courses throughout the city have updated their training material to address using social media, and their advice is consistent and clear: don’t. Even after your sitter has aced a babysitting course, it’s okay to remind your sitter that at no time should they post a photo or video of your child on social media. While bedtime may be flexible and a few extra treats are forgivable, the rule regarding social media is non-negotiable.

3. Chatting and apps. Back when the phone hung on the wall and had rotary dials, it was a very useful tool when it came to babysitter safety. Phones have come a long way since then, but connecting to the outside world so easily can make the inside world more complicated. For example, are you comfortable if the babysitter uses Facetime or video chat alongside your kids? Do you want your children using your babysitter’s phone for games and apps? If not, have this conversation before you leave the house to spare an awkward conversation later (and save your babysitter some data).

4. Private information. Many tweens and teens have embraced their digital profiles and then some. Their fluency and comfort-level in living a life online likely exceeds your own. But this doesn’t have to extend to your young kids, who actually have very little control over their digital identities. As a parent, part of your job is to set these boundaries on your kids’ behalf. Remind your babysitter not to post names, ages, or any personal identifiers online while they’re caring for your kids, just
as you would expect them to avoid doing at a park or a playground.

5. Location. There are golden rules when it comes to babysitting, and ‘stranger danger’ will always be one of them. In our digital age, many babysitting courses are now addressing the online side of safety, such as avoiding publicly sharing your location and the fact that you’re home alone. Remind your babysitter not to ‘check in’ to your street address on Facebook or Tweet to the twitterverse that they’ll be by themselves all night long (#babysitting).

Addressing these issues with your babysitter will help bridge the (sometimes generational) gap and ensure everyone’s online safety. Most importantly, it will help you build a lasting, trusting babysitting relationship - which, in turn, means more date nights!

Shannon is a freelance writer living in Calgary with her husband and three daughters. In 2016, she was selected as one of five New Alberta Voices through the Writers’ Guild of Alberta Mentorship Program. 

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