In the past, parents had to worry about their teen babysitter inviting their boyfriend over. Today there are new distractions and dangers in the form of online activity like Tweets and Facebook posts.
Beware of social media
Before your teen babysitter's online activity puts your child in danger, have a conversation about social media safety. Here are the new ground rules to establish with your modern babysitter.
How safe is your child with your tech-savvy babysitter?
More than 800 million people are on Facebook. Over 14 million of those users are between the ages of 13 and 17. If your babysitter fits that demographic, your concerns should go beyond worrying that your teen sitter is texting too much while watching your child. Now it's worrisome if they're posting pics of your kids, proclaiming their locale when out with your child or broadcasting that you're out of the house while they're on duty.
Setting ground rules for your babysitter
Not overly familiar with the social media landscape? Get friendly -- you'll need to be in the know eventually to keep up with your kids. "Friend your regular caregiver on Facebook and follow her on Twitter," recommends Katie Bugbee, managing editor at Care.com. "Get to know her the way her friends know her. Make sure that you like her social 'activity.'"
Also initiate these online activity boundaries for your babysitter:
Precautions for parents
If you don't want your teen babysitter texting while they're with your child, refrain from using that mode of communication with your sitter. Make texting and chatting on the phone off-limits while babysitting unless there is an emergency.
"Make texting and chatting on the phone off-limits while babysitting unless there is an emergency."
Want to keep tabs on your child's online activity while they're hanging with the babysitter? Automatically monitor social media usage and cell phone activity with SafetyWeb. Set keyword alerts (such as the babysitter's name, her boyfriend's name and forbidden destinations). You'll receive mobile alerts if your child has mentioned anything off limits or, say, they're texting far past the hour the babysitter was to put them to sleep.
Even if your child is too young to have any record of online activity, chances are they have a Nintendo DS or other handheld game device that keeps them busy, especially when with a sitter. "Many video game devices are enabled with GPS," cautions Kallweit. Disable this function.
More about social media safety