Parents Are Asking Babysitters to Sign Contracts Forbidding Social Media on the Job

Eyes on the children, please!

No matter how qualified your babysitter is, placing your child in the hands of a stranger is always a daunting prospect. But in the smartphone era, one could argue that there are more babysitter distractions than ever—and that's why you probably won't be surprised to learn that many Silicon Valley parents are now increasingly asking their nannies to sign contracts that ban them from using their phones while on the job, Bloomberg reports.

Some might argue that this is a classic case of helicopter parenting, and it very well may be. According to a June 2018 study by the American Psychological Association, children who are being constantly watched and whose behavior is incessantly guided find it difficult to manage or control their emotions as they get older. However, there's also a case to be made that keeping babysitters off of their phones is a necessary protective measure in the digital age.

According to a 2014 Yale University study, injuries to children under five years in age increased by 10 percent between 2005 and 2012. The study's lead author, economist Craig Palsson, says that it's no mere coincidence that the spike in injuries occurred during the rise of the smartphone.

"Using the expansion of AT&T's 3G network, I find that smartphone adoption has a causal impact on child injuries," he wrote. "This effect is strongest amongst children ages 0-5, but not children ages 6-10, and in activities where parental supervision matters. I put this forward as indirect evidence that this increase is due to parents being distracted while supervising children, and not due to increased participation in accident-prone activities."

But there's another reason that Silicon Valley parents seem borderline obsessed with banning technology from their children's lives: they're worried about the adverse effects of screen time.

"Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it's best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles," Nellie Bowles writes for The New York Times. "These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure."

Indeed, there's a growing body of research that shows it's crucial to limit your child's screen time in order to allow their brains to properly develop. A 2018 study by the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that 27.7 percent of children aged 7 to 12 developed myopia between 2010 and 2013, which scientists attribute to the amount of time that kids now spend staring at screens instead of playing outside.

Another recent study found that children aged 8 to 11 who have more than two hours of screen time per day show signs of lower cognitive function. And a June 2018 study published in Pediatric Research found that many parents either escape into their iPhones or give their children a screen when they are having a tantrum, which actually leads them to act out more later on. Child psychiatrists are also increasingly concerned about the fact that many kids who grew up with technology now seem incapable of reading the time on a traditional clock, and are having trouble gripping pens or pencils.

It makes sense then that Silicon Valley parents, who are arguably the most aware of how technology impacts the brain, are becoming increasingly strict about adhering to the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommend limiting children aged 2 to 5 to no more than one hour per day of "high-quality programs" that parents should co-view with their kids "to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them," and set consistent limits on the screen time of those over the age of five.

"The people who are closest to tech are the most strict about it at home," Lynn Perkins, the C.E.O. of UrbanSitter, told The New York Times. "We see that trend with our nannies very clearly." And for more on the negative affects of screen time, read about this Distressing New Study That Says Young Americans Are Plagued by Loneliness.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more