If you haven’t had to make a hard parenting decision related to technology, I promise it is just around the corner.
So much has changed about parenting thanks to the crazy advances we have seen in technology in recent years. Parents today are regularly forced to ask ourselves questions about how much time online is too much, what photos and information are appropriate to share on social media and how we can protect and limit our children when they spend time online.
I know I feel like I am regularly reevaluating my own use of technology or adjusting boundaries so I can better parent my kids in an online world that is constantly changing. One thing I have had to evaluate is the online behavior of the people we hire to watch our kids.
I know that employers screen potential employees all of the time, but it never crossed my mind that this is something I would need to do before paying someone to watch my kids for date night or while I work. It wasn’t until a friend had to navigate dealing with a babysitter posting bathtime photos of her toddler online that I realized that I would need to set clear expectations from the start anytime I bring a new babysitter into my home.
There are so many varying opinions on what is appropriate when it comes to minors and the online world and I truly believe most people don’t intend harm when they cross a boundary. This is why I feel like it is so important to be clear with the people who care for children about our own personal rules about social media. I don’t hesitate to lay out all of the boundaries from the start and I think having some initial ground rules helps us to avoid sticky situations when it comes to our babysitters and social media.
I am already friends on social media with most of the people who watch my kids, but I don't hesitate to friend or follow new babysitters online before they watch my kids. I’m sure some think this crosses some sort of professional boundary, but I simply don’t want to hire anyone if they don’t feel comfortable with me seeing what’s being posted on their social media accounts while they are watching my children.
I know there is nothing cuter than a naked baby or toddler. Bath time is a lot of fun and potty training is usually hilarious, but none of this needs to be documented online. In our family, we reserve any naked or partial-clothing pictures of our kids for private texts to Grandma, so we strictly forbid our babysitters from sharing any of these photos online.
There is a really fine line between the cute things my kids do and say and the things that could potentially embarrass them in the future. That means I don’t want to see any pictures of my kids with underwear on their heads or sitting on the potty on my babysitters' Facebook pages.
Along with pictures, I also ask my babysitters to be careful about what kind of information they share about my kids online. Typically this means no geo-tagging pictures of my kids' location if they take them to the park and no talking online about where my kids live or go to school.
Beyond restricting what types of photos of my kids end up on our babysitters’ social media pages, I also hold the ultimate veto power before photos go online. While I trust my kids' aunts and grandparents to use discretion, if we hire a new babysitter I ask them to check with me before they post photos of my kids or even talk about them online. With that comes the understanding that they should respect my No if I feel that what they are posting isn’t in my child’s best interest.
This last part is my least favorite part of setting boundaries with new babysitters. It seems like if I bring it up, I am bound to offend them because it seems like I don’t trust them to be smart about their phone use. At the same time, if I don’t bring it up, there is no way for me to express what I feel is appropriate. So, when I hire a new babysitter, I ask them to stay off their phones while my kids are awake.
As much as I would love to be the laid-back mom who doesn't make a big deal about the small stuff like what my kids' babysitters post online, being a cool mom isn't my job. My job is to protect my kids as best I know how — and setting really strict limits about what pictures of my kids end up online is one way I keep them safe.
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