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 the 3-year old. The parent realized something was wrong when her 3-year old kept walking by the kitchen’s nanny cam by himself. The parent called a neighbor to go into the house and check. The nanny’s phone was buried in her purse several rooms away and she was crawling to it…in a great deal of pain.

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 cell phone is in my pocket fully charged. 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 multiple texts or a call from a parent back when my cell phone was 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 the phone “distraction” was professionalism yet I was actually preventing the child’s parent from reaching me. Now, I keep my ringer on unless I am prepping a child for nap or bedtime or at the library. I also send the parent a photo of their child and the fun activities we are doing, to help set their mind at ease.

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 personal phone 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 that 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 take a 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 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. That said, they should not plan personal calls with family during their nanny workday.

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 put yourself in charge of policing 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.

If a nanny does start excessively using their phone it’s often a sign that the nanny is burned out, the daily routine is too restrictive, or the work has become mundane. As the nanny’s employer, take increasing cell phone use as a signal not to just reiterate your 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 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 on hands-free bluetooth, is strictly prohibited while driving. Maps/driving instructions may be used but should be set before the nanny begins driving.”

Parents, you want your nanny or babysitter to have their phone on them and you want them to have your wifi password. The phone is an emergency tool. Nannies and babysitters, you want to have your cell phone with you and charged. The trick is overcoming that urge to scroll and text. That is professionalism.

#cellphone #smartphone #etiquette #technology #technologyatwork