I recently read an article from Be the Best Nanny blog about nannies and cell phone use.
It’s interesting to read the input from our industry’s experts on the topic of talking and texting while on the job. First let me say that I agree a nanny shouldn’t be on her phone when her attention is required elsewhere. As a nanny I’ve always been super protective of the separation between work and personal.
What strikes me about the article is the absence of the larger “good judgment” argument. (Some experts touched on it in their responses.) Nannies make a huge number of small decisions throughout the day that have the potential to greatly impact the health and safety of the kids we care for. From what we feed them to how far we stand away from them at the playground to letting them play by themselves in a separate area of the house while we fold laundry. The list goes on and on. There’s no way a parent can document all the rules and regulations needed for every situation in any given day. At some point, parents have to have faith that the nanny they’ve hired has good judgment and will do whatever is necessary to not only keep their child safe, but thriving. And I think this extends to cell phone use. If in the name of quality care or professionalism, a parent (or agency) has to mandate that a nanny only use her phone for work related purposes that makes me wonder how that nanny is conducting herself in all the other situations she faces. If a caregiver doesn’t have the good sense to restrict her own phone use then can I trust she has the good sense to make all the other smart choices she needs to make during the day? My answer is no.
Here’s what I think.
Every family has an acceptable limit on cell phone use. Just like they do on TV. And junk food. And outings. And having play dates at the house. And tons of other things. It’s the nanny’s job to find out these limitations before she takes the job to determine if she’s a good match for the family.
A nanny can be a professional and still use her cell phone for non-work related stuff. I know many amazing nannies that get texts throughout the day about their personal lives. Husbands saying they’re picking up dinner. Kids checking in. Friends confirming plans. These nannies choose when to read and answer those texts according to what’s happening on their job. And if they have some free time, they might jump on facebook or twitter. It helps to connect with other adults when you’re talking about Barbie or Thomas the Tank Engine for hours at a time. Downtime when caring for children 10 to 12 hours a day is a healthy thing.
Many families want to restrict cell phone use because it drives them crazy that they’re paying a nanny for time she’s not actually performing. That’s not a problem with cell phone use. It’s an attitude issue and it will present itself in many different ways in the employment relationship.
Isolation is one of the biggest challenges of working as a nanny. It’s one of the reasons nannies leave the field and one of the reasons we have a hard time attracting quality caregivers to the industry. Some nannies are lucky and have large nanny networks in their areas. Many others don’t. For many nannies their only connection to the world is through their phone. I’d rather have a nanny get some texts and check social media sites during the day (when it doesn’t interfere with providing quality care or finishing required tasks) than have a nanny struggling with loneliness and isolation while trying to be patient and engaged with a child hour after hour.
Nannies who talk, text and surf too much, the ones we hear about on the phone for an hour while her charge runs wild at the playground, aren’t quality caregivers. Again, this isn’t a cell phone issue. If they didn’t have a cell phone they find another distraction that would keep them from providing great care. They simply don’t like their jobs and shouldn’t be caring for kids.
So what do you think?