Setting Social Media Boundaries with your Babysitter
You’ve finally managed to pick a date and time, secure a reservation, and find a babysitter who is free at the same time as your date night! Mom for the win! But now, in addition to all of the other pre-screen-the-babysitter questions, there is one more topic of concern to parents and it's a big one! Social media. Do your sitters use social media when they are supposed to be watching and playing with your kids? Do they post pictures of your children? What is the big deal about babysitters and social media?
What’s The Big Deal?
In a word, the big deal is safety. Location identification features such as “checking-in” allow strangers to know the location of your children. As much a location share tells people where you are, it also tells them where you aren't. Do you want possibly millions of strangers to have access to the knowledge that your home is not occupied? Or that children are being supervised by someone other than their parents? Child predators look for gaps in the safety armor of children. It would be welcomed information to know that multiple children are in a public space and may have unsupervised moments while the other children are being watched. Additionally, social media posts may make photos of children available to strangers. CNN published a detailed article about a mother who authored a blog post featuring her young twins during potty training. The mother posted a picture of her children with their legs exposed and later learned that the photo was photoshopped and being downloaded on a website commonly used by pedophiles. Sadly, we live in a world where stories such as hers are becoming more common.
As a mom, when I post a picture of my children, I am fairly confident of who can see it. I have my privacy settings chosen and feel pretty secure. But, what if I am not the person posting the picture?
These days it is rare to see someone without a smartphone and with smartphones come a huge variety of social media outlets. These days, it’s all about sharing and some babysitters may not think twice about posting about their babysitting adventures, including snapping a few pics! After speaking with many sitters and parents, it was evident that this area of babysitting is very unclear!
Social Sharing Safety Steps
First, be clear about the overall use of social media. Mom Namisha V. has a no posting policy. She said that she has never had a babysitter post a picture of her children because, “I lay out a lot of rules at the beginning so we are clear.” Other parents have reported that they haven’t had the boundary talk with their sitters, but don’t mind babysitters posting if they ask permission first or as long as their child is viewed in a positive way. Several moms reported that having their child’s picture posted online without their knowledge isn’t something that had ever crossed their mind! Baby sitter Emily R. shared, “If I don’t know the family well, I always ask before posting about their child.” Social media is a new frontier in babysitting and the sitters need to know if you are ok with it’s use, or not!
Second, be up-front about your social media boundaries. Just as you set boundaries for what your child may eat for snacks and dinner, how much screen time they can have, and bedtime routines, be clear about your social media boundaries from the beginning. Babysitter Sarah S. reported that she has never been given social media boundaries when sitting for a new family, but says that she follows her own mental moral code. She does not post pictures of children’s faces, does not post on location photos until they have left, and never takes bathtub or bathing suit pictures. Another sitter reported that she only posts pictures that are already in a public forum such as a school event or recital. These are things that a parent should provide guidelines about for sitters. What kinds of photos are acceptable to post, if any? Are location services turned off? Remind sitters to “check-in” when they leave an area rather than when they arrive. Make sure that children’s full name are never used. Don’t post pictures that identify the child’s home or address.
Next, be clear about whose social media is being discussed. When I asked sitter Ashley F. about her conversations with parents and social media, her first question was, “About my social media use or the child’s social media use?” I thought she made a very good point! Although she has never been presented with expectations about her own social media use, Ashley’s clients follow her on social media and can see everything she posts. She likes that her clients can see what kind of person she is through her posts. As for the children, she reported that, “Parents have told me plenty of times that they don’t want their kids spending too much time on social media. So for example, they can spend a little time on their iPods or iPads but the parents ultimately want them to get outside and play more than being glued to the phone.”
Sarah S. had this word of wisdom for other sitters, “If you have to ask yourself if it's okay, you should probably just not post. If you have questions, ask the parents for boundaries!” and since she is the sitter we use, I was glad to hear it!
Published in Baton Rouge Parents Magazine