How to disconnect the babysitter from technology

Question: Is it wrong to ask our family babysitter to turn her phone off while watching my kids?

Answer: Mobile phones can be handy, helpful—and a big distraction.

For this reason, most employers have cellphone policies in place limiting mobile phone access during work hours. Checking email or making a quick call during a work break may be acceptable, but using the phone to tweet about work, take photos of patrons or fellow employees or message friends and surf social networks is generally forbidden on the job.

Following this precedent, it is completely acceptable to ask your babysitter to refrain from using her cellphone for personal use while working for you. The key is to have a clear discussion about your expectations and any exceptions before laying down the rules.

Start the conversation by taking this approach:

Explain your concerns. When your sitter’s eyes are focused on her phone, she is not focused on your children. Let your sitter know that her attention should be on your children while she is on duty. “The kids are very active and really need your full attention all the time.”

Understand how teens use their phones. Many teens will use their phone to listen to music, play games, check in with their social network, watch movies and check email. Let your sitter know you aren’t just concerned with distractions related to texting or phone calls.

Lay down some parameters. Discuss specifics so your babysitter understands that calling her own parent, playing games or using her phone to listen to music later in the evening is acceptable as long as the children are asleep.

Outline exceptions. In some instances, a phone can be handy for a babysitter as a resource or in the case of an emergency. Phones can accompany sitters to the park, yard or on a bike ride. “That doesn’t mean I expect you to leave your phone behind. Please take it along to the park in case of emergency and don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions at all.”

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