If you work in an office, chances are that you check in on social media occasionally during the day. Maybe you have the discipline to ignore notifications until lunchtime. But if you are guilty of a quick scroll between meetings you are far from alone – one survey found 89 percent of office workers use social media during work hours.
But what if you don’t work in an office? What if your job is to care for children? Is it still okay to look at social media? This is a question that nanny agencies in the UK have been grappling with after noticing a rise in the number of parents requesting ‘smartphone clauses’ in contracts.
Is it OK for a babysitter/nanny to look at social media?
Speaking to The Times, Kate Baker, who runs Abbeville Nannies said that parents are concerned that social media or texting could be too much of a distraction. “[Parents are] saying, ‘we don’t want you to be texting your friends or being constantly on your phone while looking after the kids in the background,” she said.
So can we expect to see smartphone rules for nannies in Australia any time soon? It is certainly something some parents would like to see. Heidi Wilson, who has hired a succession of nannies to look after her school-age children says that she would like to see some formal rules in place. “Catching [the nanny] using her phone has become a bit of a bugbear. I’m paying her to look after the kids – I don’t expect her to be Mary Poppins, but I do expect her to focus all her attention on the children,” she says.
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But, many nannies, along with nanny and babysitting agencies are calling for a common sense approach. Annemarie Sansom, director of Night Nannies, says that she would not consider implementing a smartphone ban because it would undermine trust. “We trust in our team to make professional decisions when it comes to ensuring they are providing the highest quality care when they have children in their care and are on the job representing us,” she explains.
“You are trusting your child with a professional, why can we not trust them to use their phone sensibly?”
On top of this, Sansom notes that many of her nannies like to use their phone when they are having a break. “Nannies are entitled to a meal break when the child is napping. Would social media access be banned during that time? Should we include magazines, newspapers, TV and other distractions?”
Sansom also points out that many families rely on text messages or WhatsApp to communicate with their nanny. “Banning a phone would obviously inhibit this communication,” she says.
Rather than putting a formal smartphone ban into place, Sansom suggests that any families feeling particularly strongly about phone use discuss the issue with their nanny upfront.
“Parents need to discuss their own philosophies and expectations with their nanny at the time of interview and if it is something they feel passionate about then it would need to be discussed and included in their contract,” she says.
Child safety is a priority
However, some agencies have started to include smartphone clauses in their contracts. Emma Bowdler, managing director at Australian Nanny Agency says that she has worked closely with families to establish smartphone and social media clauses that ensure they are getting the most from their nanny. “Most businesses have a social media policy so a household employing staff shouldn’t be any different.
“Our families hire career professionals to look after their children and are entitled to the knowledge that this employee is focused solely on their work; not their social media status,” says Bowdler.
“The safety of the children should always be the number one priority.”