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  • Writer's pictureGenna McGahee

Cell Phone Etiquette For Sitters & Nannies

Updated: Feb 3

I used to think that the best cell phone policy was no cell phone around at all. I saw them as unprofessional distractions during work hours. Then I met a parent whose nanny fell and broke her leg, very badly, while alone at their home with their 3 year old. The parent realized something was wrong when her 3 year old kept walking by the kitchen nanny camera alone. The parent called a neighbor who was able to go into the house and check. The nanny's cell phone was buried in her purse several rooms away and she was crawling to a great deal of pain.

After I heard this story it dawned on me that a cell phone is a very important safety tool. Now, when I am with children my cell phone is typically in my pocket, fully charged with the ringer on. I always ask the parent for their wifi password, especially in North Boulder where cell service can be practically zero.

I've also been that babysitter who missed several texts or a call from a parent back when my cell phone was far away or on silent. My phone was the last thing on my mind. Meanwhile, the increasingly anxious parent texted again, "Hey just checking back again did things go ok after I left this morning?" I thought removing the phone 'distraction' was professionalism yet I was actually preventing the parent from reaching me. Now, I keep my ringer on unless I am prepping a child for nap or bedtime, at the library, etc. I also take the time to send the parent a picture of their child and the fun activities we are doing.

So....what shouldn't the babysitter or nanny be doing with their phone? Where is the line?

  • answering emails

  • excessively answering texts

  • making or answering unnecessary personal calls

  • taking selfies or posting to social media

  • scrolling social media when children need to be supervised and engaged

There are a few caveats:

  • Childcare providers who are parents may need different expectations. They typically must answer their phone on the chance it's an emergency call about their child.

  • Full time nannies or babysitters working an 8 hour day may need to make a personal call during their lunch or have to answer an important call when they are with their nanny child. Nannies do not get private lunch breaks away from the worksite like a traditional job. They still need to make doctor's appointments, answer a call from the mechanic or the veterinarian, call a plumber, and so on. Those services are typically open between 9-5.

  • If a nanny's family lives in another country with significant time zone differences, it's possible they might need to occasionally respond to family texts during the day. Their midmorning could be their family members' evening.

Sometimes parents ask me if they should hold their childcare provider to a no-texting policy during a shift. My response is, "Ask yourself as the employer: do you want to police all phone use?" Personally, I do not want to feel angry and suspicious any time I see my nanny's phone out. Is a text here and there causing true harm? The answer is probably no, when compared to all of the effort and creativity a great nanny or babysitter puts into their overall workday. Realistically, most people will eventually check a text once they've heard that text message notification.

If a nanny does start excessively using their phone it's often a sign that the nanny is burned out and/or the daily routine has become mundane. As the nanny's employer I'd take increasing cell phone use as a signal not to just remind my employee of my phone use policy, but to check with them about how the job is going. Does something need to change? It is the employer's responsibility to check in with the employee.

I do recommend writing cell phone use expectations into your nanny contract. Something along the lines of, "The provider agrees to limit cell phone use to breaks and lunches, and only as the appropriate supervision of the child can be maintained. The provider agrees to limit phone calls to urgent calls only."

Parents, you want your nanny or babysitter to have their phone and you want them to have your wifi password. Nannies and babysitters, you want to have your cell phone with you. The trick is overcoming that urge to look or scroll for no good reason. That is professionalism.


Genna Hackley

Founder, Babysitters Of Boulder

#cellphone #smartphone #etiquette #technology

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