Does Online Babysitting Work?

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According to a recent article in the New York Times, interest in virtual sitters is surging.  Whether its stand-in home-school teachers, professional babysitters or a grandparent holding a virtual tea party, companies are creating platforms for caregivers to interact with kids virtually—including options to book onscreen babysitters.

But, does it really work?

“Of course, virtual babysitters can’t change a baby’s diapers, tuck a preschooler into bed or chase an unruly toddler around the house. But screen-based caregivers can entertain kids and give parents short breaks,” writes Katharine Gammon.

Here are some things you should consider before hiring your virtual sitter:

Timing is Everything
According to the article, virtual babysitting works best in small amounts of time, usually half an hour to an hour.  And parents should be nearby—at least within earshot of the child. It also tends to work best in the mornings, when kids are rested and fresh.

Focus on Special Talents and Interests
Consider hiring a virtual sitter who have specific skills, like being able to talk and play games about sports, or dinosaurs, or math.  This especially works well for older kids who can often pay attention longer when the topic is interesting.

Plan a Specific Activity
Doing an activity—reading a story, creating a craft or play a game—over a screen still engaged kids’ imaginative play.  As long as the child is able to communicate well and is interested in the person onscreen, virtual babysitting can work. “The burden is more on the babysitter than on the child,” Dr. Arthur Lavin explains, adding that the virtual sitter has to be more prepared and care about what the child will click into.

Virtual Experience Matters
Because keeping kids engaged virtually is different than when in-person, you should look for a sitter that has experience in virtual babysitting.  “As a parent you’re kind of looking for the feeling of — I know how to do this; I got you,” she parent Kimberly Sloan. “I haven’t experienced any sort of platform that has got this dialed in yet.”

You can read the whole article here.

Have you tried using a virtual babysitter?  We’d love to hear how it worked for you and your child.

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