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Tween Texted Instead of Watching My Kid!

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Bethany Sanders: My kids are attending a summer program this week at their school -- a program wherein they're supervised mostly by eighth graders, with one adult in every room.  My preschooler wouldn't stay on her own yesterday, so I sat in. So glad I did, because the team leader spent about 70 percent of the session with her eyes locked on her cell phone, frantically texting her friends!


My kid was never in any danger; there were plenty of other people supervising. But it made me realize that the next time I hire a teen or tween sitter, I'll need to ask her to put down her cell phone while she's watching my kid.

Statistics on texting show that four out of five teens carry a wireless device, and that over half say their cell is key to maintaining their social life. Forty-two percent of teens can text with their eyes closed. Bottom line? Texting teens aren't going away anytime soon, so parents need to lay down the ground rules when employing teens and tweens to babysit.

"Texting can be the best way for working parents to keep up with what is going on in the daily lives of their children," says Candi Wingate, president of Nannies4Hire, who actually doesn't recommend banning babysitters' cell phones from your home. "Most families will allow babysitters to text if texting does not interfere with childcare and other job responsibilities. For example, if the children are taking their naps and all the peripheral job tasks -- such as laundry or light housekeeping -- are done, then the babysitter may text her friends and family."

But Wingate does recommend setting firm rules about texting while driving or at other times when your babysitter needs to be fully aware of her surroundings. "Studies have shown that people who text while driving have lower response times than people who drive drunk," says Wingate.

Before talking to Wingate, I thought that I would probably ban a babysitter's cell altogether.  Adults aren't allowed to spend 50 percent of their working hours sending texts to friends, so it's a good lesson for a working teen. And I want her eyes on my kids, not on her BlackBerry screen. I've seen my nieces text their friends in the middle of Christmas dinner, so I know that it takes a strong teen to resist the pull of a chirping cell phone. 

But Wingate makes a good point that communicating with teens in their language -- that is, via texting -- is a good way to keep tabs on your kids throughout the day. In the end, says Wingate, every parent has to determine his or her own level of comfort with texting. 

"Because what is appropriate is, to some degree, dependent on each family's preference, each family should discuss the rules on texting with their babysitter during their interviews -- and again at the time of hire," Wingate says. "Then, if the babysitter is found to have violated the rule, the parents can refer back to their original agreement, remind or retrain the babysitter [about] the boundaries and expectations or take any progressive discipline necessary, given the severity of the circumstance."

How do you feel about your teen or tween babysitter texting while she's supposed to be watching your kids?


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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kristen June 22, 2010, 5:05 AM

Why are eighth graders who are in a school job and adults around ALLOWED to have their cell phones on them? I get letting kids keep their cell phones BUT these kids are suppose to be at a job with other adults, turn the darn things off or don’t get paid. Another thing, I highly doubt I would allow my child to be watched by eighth graders.

Anonymous June 22, 2010, 6:02 AM

Why on earth did you allow your child in a program where an 8th grader would be watching them?

Anonymous June 22, 2010, 6:25 AM

Most eighth graders are perfectly capable of watching a preschooler, and these eighth graders had adult supervision as well. Most of the other kids in the room did a fabulous job keep tabs on their crews.

Bethany Sanders June 22, 2010, 6:38 AM

I didn’t mean for that comment to be anonymous, whoops! That was from me.

momof4 June 22, 2010, 7:40 AM

This reminds me of a girl I met in LA on a business trip. We became fast friends and decided we’d hit the town together. Little did I know she would be texting the ENTIRE time we were out. It was so rude and I was so bored because I pretty much could have been walking down Rodeo drive alone…oh and I wouldn’t mind it if it was occasional but not constant, I mean they are teens, it’s what they do. I also don’t let teens watch my kids but that’s just me.

unknown mom June 22, 2010, 8:56 AM

Ok! I have a 14 year old daughter. She is glued to her cell phone. There is no way to change that. However, I have seen times when even she gets tired of it. She will put it in her room and leave it there. She always laughs about how many texts there were on there when she picks the phone back up, but here is my point. My daughter is not allowed to have her phone with her when she is at the dinner table. She is not allowed to constantly text if she is watching her 9 year old brother. She occasionally watches the neighbor’s kids and she is really good about not texting the whole time she is there. She actually enjoys playing with the little ones(as long as it’s not her brother LOL) I am a working mom and I think it is a good way to keep in touch with your teen. With that said, we as parents need to teach our children when it is appropriate to be texting and when it is not. This would eliminate alot of the problem. For those moms out there that just said they would not let a teen babysit their kids, did you not babysit when you were a teenager? I know I sure did. One more thing…you are going to have good responsible teenagers and not so responsible teenagers, and I for one would not trust half of the teens my daughter hangs out with to babysit, however there are a few in her group that have shown me responsibility. I can remeber when I was a kid (no cell phones existed then) I had a babysitter that stayed on the telephone the whole time she was there. I told my mom I didn’t like her and what she did and my mom never asked her to come back. I had another babysitter that played with me read stories to me and sang and danced with me. I would get so excited if my mom told me she was coming to babysit. So as a mother of a teen that babysits I told my daughter this and she goes by that. She knows she has a better chance of getting called back if she does it right.

Black Iris June 22, 2010, 11:48 AM

I think texting when you’re on break makes sense. Otherwise, it shouldn’t be allowed, although it’s good for the kids to have cell phones to use in an emergency. Someone working at a summer camp should put their phone away. I’m surprised the supervisor didn’t speak up.

Jamie RN June 23, 2010, 7:19 AM

No way I’d let a 14 year old watch my pre-schooler period. Adult supervision? Clearly there was none there if they kids were texting and the adults didn’t stop them.

chrissie June 23, 2010, 12:41 PM

14 is definitley “old” enough to baby-sit preschoolers. Our local community college teaches babysitter skills to teenagers and the age allowed is 12 and up. Man, some of you women are so uptight. “I would NEVER…” PLEASE!

Leah June 24, 2010, 5:43 AM

Have any of you met a 12 or 14 year old? Um no one below the age of 17 (and they must possess cpr trainig) is allowed to watch my toddlers. It’s not uptight -it’s common sense! Toddlers/pre-schoolers get into EVERYTHING - if someone can’t even drive yet they aren’t old enough to watch my kids. And I’m far more laid back than all the helicopter SAHMs that surround me. I just care more about my kids’ safety than going out all the time.

maureen February 10, 2011, 6:41 AM

Interesting - I googled this because I am about to require that our teenage babysitters leave their cell phones at home when they are sitting for us. This isn’t a nanny situation, it’s a few hours in the evening while we go out to dinner, etc. We pay extremely well … if they can’t do without their phones for a few hours, they can turn down the job. We have a landline that they can use if they need it. We wouldn’t allow them to bring an iPod and listen the whole time, why would texting be any different?

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