Are Zoom babysitters the ‘new normal’ of childcare?

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Utah (ABC4 News) — Under average circumstances, parents might hire a babysitter to watch their children for a few hours as they head out on a date or a nanny while they go to work to keep their kids safe while they are away.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new normal that extends to childcare, and some families are considering virtual or Zoom babysitters, as the San Francisco Gate reported.

Louisa Mann is a Dance Teaching artist living in Manhattan who who advertises her services on sittercity.com. She has been babysitting in New York for about ten years both at homes and in day care centers.

Louisa Mann said she is willing to do virtual babysitting sessions for Utah families.

In addition, Mann has taught virtual dance classes to children, to help curb the spread of the virus. Mann said she thought this could be one way in which she could entertain children across the country while they are stuck at home.

She said she is willing to provide virtual sitting sessions to families in Utah.

“I would say its a really great opportunity to connect with someone that you wouldn’t normally be able to connect with and a way for their kids to meet someone new to have that interaction, but to also maybe learn about where I’m from and kind of share in that way.”

Apart from meeting a new person, Mann said there are multiple ways for virtual sitters to entertain kids.

“I have a lot of instructional songs for younger kids so they could follow along with the dances. If they weren’t interested in dance, we could do some kind of a scavenger hunt… for older kids, we could definitely do art projects, help them with homework assignments, stuff like that,” she said.

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

ABC4 News asked readers on social media to respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following question:

Would you consider hiring a virtual babysitter to occupy your children over Zoom while you worked from home?

Of the 813 responses, 790 were no and 23 were yes. According to the comments, some parents were concerned that a virtual babysitter couldn’t keep kids safe, feed them, or enforce rules. Others said that streaming services could occupy children for less money than a sitter.

However, Mann said the social interaction aspect of virtual sitting is important for kids right now.

“… especially for younger kids,” she said. “They’re not getting that interaction much outside of their families right now, so for them to be able to interact and get that immediate response rather than just being plopped in front of a screen… they’re missing their teachers and their babysitters and their friends, so to be able to have a person outside of their immediate family to have that interaction with is really important right now.”

Mann said virtual babysitting is a great option for the situation we are in right now, but acknowledged that it may not work in all situations.

“Yeah, especially for a younger child that needs maybe a little more close supervision to keep them physically safe, I wouldn’t be able to do that through virtual sittings, so the parent does have to be home and present to make sure that they will be physically safe still. So I would say that’s a major limitation,” she said.

She also said a virtual session couldn’t be as long as an in-person sitting session.

“I think its a good alternative for the situation that we’re in,” Mann said. “Just keep in mind-it is really different than in-person babysitting, but I think it’s a great opportunity right now for parents to get a little break and for kids to get that interaction.”

I miss working with kids, she added.

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