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 child kept walking by the kitchen’s nanny cam alone. The parent called a neighbor who found the nanny crawling through the house to her cell phone, which was buried in her purse several rooms away.

After I heard this story, it dawned on me that a cell phone is a vital safety tool. Now, when I am with children my phone is in my pocket fully charged. I always ask the parent for their wifi password to ensure that I have service, especially in North Boulder where cell service is poor.

I’ve also been that babysitter who missed multiple texts or calls from a parent back when I kept my phone on silent in my bag. My phone was the last thing on my mind. Meanwhile, the increasingly anxious parent texted me again, “Hey just checking back again did things go ok after I left this morning?” I thought removing this 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 sleep or we’re at the library. I send the parent a photo of fun activities we are doing, to help set their mind at ease.

So…where is the line when it comes to cell phones? What shouldn’t your babysitter or nanny be doing?

    • answering & sending emails, unless on break
    • excessively answering & sending texts during work hours
    • making or answering personal phone calls, unless on break
    • taking selfies or posting to social media, unless on break
    • checking social media when children need to be supervised

There are a few caveats:

    • Childcare providers who are parents typically must answer their phone in case it’s an emergency call about their child.
    • Full-time nannies, or babysitters working an 8-hour day, may need to make a quick personal call during their lunch or when they are with their nanny child. Nannies don’t get lunch breaks away from the worksite like a traditional job, yet they need to make doctor’s appointments, answer a call from the veterinarian, call a plumber, etc. 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, or make a call while their nanny child naps midday. Their midmorning could be their family members’ evening. That said, they should not plan on frequently making personal calls while supervising their nanny child.

Sometimes parents ask me if they should hold their childcare provider to a “no phone use” policy during a shift. My response is, “Do you want to give yourself the job of policing phone use?” Personally, I don’t want to feel angry and suspicious every time I see my nanny’s phone out. Is a text here and there causing harm? Probably not, especially when compared to the immense effort and creativity a great nanny puts into their workday, overall.

If your nanny starts excessively using their phone it’s often a sign that they’re struggling with something in their personal life, they are burned out, or the work routine is too restrictive or micromanaged. Do reiterate your phone use policy, and also check in about how things are going. Does something need to change? Do they need a day off for personal reasons? It is the employer’s responsibility to check in with their employee.

I 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. Cell phone use, even hands-free bluetooth, is prohibited while driving. Use of GPS maps and voice driving instructions is permitted but should be set before the nanny begins driving.”

You want your nanny or babysitter to have their phone with them, and you want them to have your wifi password. The phone is an emergency tool and it’s your direct line to them. Nannies and babysitters, you want to have your cell phone with you and charged. The trick is overcoming the urge to scroll and text, and speak with your employer if something about the job is driving you to distract yourself with social media or excessive texting. That is where professionalism comes in.

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