Cell Phone Etiquette For Sitters & Nannies
Updated: Sep 13
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 amiss when her 3 year old walked by the kitchen nanny camera several times 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 it all while in a great deal of pain.
After I heard this story it dawned on me that a cell phone is actually a very important safety tool. Now, when I am with children my cell phone is typically in my pocket, charged with the ringer on. I always ask the parent for their wifi password, especially in North Boulder where service can be practically nonexistent.
I've also been the babysitter who missed several texts or a call from a parent back when my cell phone was far away, on silent or not turned on at all. My phone was the last thing on my mind while meanwhile the increasingly anxious parent texted again, "Hey just checking back again did things go ok after I left this morning?" I thought removing that 'distraction' was professionalism, yet I was actually preventing the parent from reaching me. Now, I keep my cell phone ringer on unless I am prepping a child for nap or bedtime, at the library or a music class with a child, etc. I also take the time to send the parent a picture of their child and the fun and interesting activities we are doing.
So then....what shouldn't the babysitter or nanny be doing with their phone while working?
excessively answering texts
making unnecessary personal calls
taking selfies and 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 a different set of expectations, as they typically must answer the phone on the off chance it's an emergency call from their child's school, etc.
Full time nannies or nannies working an 8 hour day usually need allotment to make personal calls during their lunch, and the understanding that they may have to answer an important call even when they are with their nanny child. Nannies do not get private lunch breaks away from the worksite like a traditional job. Yet, they still need to make doctor's appointments, answer the call from the mechanic or the veterinarian, call a plumber, and so on. All of 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 could need to occasionally call or respond to family texts during the day. Their midmorning could be their family members' evening.
Is it possible to hold the childcare provider to a no-texting policy during a shift? I would ask myself: is a text here and there causing true harm? When compared to all of the effort and creativity a great nanny or babysitter puts into their overall workday...the answer is probably no. And realistically, there are very few people who can resist eventually checking a message once they've heard that text message notification chime.
If a nanny does begin to excessively use their phone it's often a very telltale 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 to not just remind my employee of my phone use expectations, but sincerely check in 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 if you wish. 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 very urgent or time sensitive 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. That is professionalism.
Founder, Babysitters Of Boulder