Hello virtual babysitting!
Hello virtual babysitting!
COVID-19 has brought about big changes in the way we work, parent and enjoy our downtime. Our homes have turned into offices, date nights are a distant memory and we’re seeing an awful lot of our children!
The good news is that virtual babysitters (also known as remote babysitters) are available to help parents balance competing pressures, carve out some ‘me time’ and concentrate on serious tasks.
A virtual babysitter can interact with your bored, isolated or endlessly energetic child, giving them a chance to socialise with someone new and have fun via a video call.
When it comes to hiring, you can:
- Ask a child care agency if they can organise a remote babysitter;
- Search an online babysitter directory;
- Book virtual babysitting through a kids’ party provider; or
- See if a trusted neighbour, university student or other casual babysitter is available to connect with your child online.
There’s also the option of using an informal, younger sitter because you’ll be at home taking responsibility for your child’s meals, safety and general welfare.
A friend’s 12-year-old might be keen to entertain your child (and themselves) for an hour here and there. And however you source your sitter, here are some pointers to help make virtual babysitting a success.
- Consider the age of your child before launching in
Although in-home babysitters look after infants and toddlers, care provided over a screen is better suited to preschoolers and older children.
Generally speaking, youngsters aged three and up have had more exposure to screen time and are learning greater self-control, so think about your child’s ability to engage with a sitter on-screen, and use your discretion when deciding if they’re up to it.
- Choose your babysitter wisely
A virtual sitter needs to be able to form a connection with your child, hold their attention and make them feel comfortable and happy, so think about the person – and personality – that will fit best with your family.
It might be helpful to hire a babysitter your child already knows, and even though a remote sitter isn’t taking a hands-on role in your child’s care, thorough vetting is still important.
Professional child carers have gone through background and safety checks, and if you hire someone else to babysit your child virtually, make sure they’re trustworthy, mature and responsible, as well as engaging.
- Set realistic expectations
Virtual babysitting has a lot to offer. Sitters can entertain your child with games, stories, music, make-believe, meditation, educational activities and more, but remember that this kind of child care isn’t the same as regular babysitting.
You’ll need to stay nearby to safely supervise your young child, and attention spans can wane quickly. While some kids happily chat to their virtual babysitter for an hour or two, and focus on every activity, others wander – both mentally and physically.
To work around this, it helps to plan activities with the sitter that you think your child will enjoy. Art and craft, games like Simon Says and Charades, and book-reading are all good ideas, and older children can get help with school work, in between being active and creative.
It may also help to ease everyone in with shorter sessions at first.
- Look at your budget
Cost is another consideration, because while some families are on full salary and saving money in isolation, others are out of work and feeling the pinch.
If money is no problem, then an experienced babysitter will be adept at entertaining your child, in exchange for their usual hourly rate and any booking fees, emergency care premiums and minimum hours conditions.
If you need to cut costs, then a word-of-mouth sitter may be cheaper, and a video call with a grandparent or another friendly volunteer is free!
All in all, virtual babysitting can be a win-win for parents and children, as long as you’re realistic about its pros and cons in the midst of a pandemic. Good luck!
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Wednesday, 11 November 2020
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