Nannies on the frontlines in war on screentime
From no-phone nanny contracts to nanny-outing, parents are heading into increasingly extreme territory as they try to protect their kids from screens.
The distraction factor is a concern. (iStock)
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It's no secret that I keep my kids away from screens. They're little and while they enjoy the occasional Friday night home movie, they don't own their own devices - and they won't until they're 18 (well, I can try!).

So when we hired our nanny one of the first rules we introduced was 'no phone for entertainment'. She's encouraged to use her phone to send us photos through the day, to arrange play dates with other local nannies and to of course contact us in an emergency.

But she is not allowed to use her device to show them music (the kids just stare at the screen the whole time anyway), games, videos or photos, or to browse social media or chat to friends during work hours.

She is also tasked with ensuring the kids don't watch TV or play with devices when out and about, at playdates, or visiting relatives homes. 

The irony

My husband and I both work with digital products, we spend our days online and literally cannot work without with a screen, so the irony isn't lost on us. But we're not the odd ones out here.

Apple CEO's Tim Cook doesn't allow his nephew to join online social networks, and former Apple CEO Steve Jobs didn't let his kids use the iPad.

Bill Gates banned phones until his kids were teenagers, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian plans to limit screen time for his daughter, and Elon Musk's kids have to obey a rule that they have to read more than they play video games.

No-phone contracts

Limiting, even banning, screen time has become so common in Silicon Valley that parents are now asking nannies and care providers to sign no-phone contracts.

According to the New York Times, parents are "panicking" about the amount of screen time their kids are being exposed to, and are tackling the fear with contracts. 

Parents ask nannies to sign agreements to keep phones, tablets, computers and TVs off, and even hidden, at all times. The contracts stipulate that a nanny agrees not to use any screen, for any purpose, in front of the child.

Some allow for the nanny to answer calls from the parents, though, reveals Silicon Valley based nanny agencies who facilitate these contracts, as parents have been known to call the nanny and then reprimand her for answering their call. 


Also read: Would you use "productivity and task-management software" to manage your home?

The distraction factor

Locally, Super Nannies owner Laurie-Ann says while they assist with contracts they haven't had any parents add a clause relating specifically to screen time and that in her experience it's more of a conversation between employer and employee, and an unwritten rule, that nannies won't use devices around the children.    

The distraction factor is a concern, and it should be clear that phones should only be used for emergencies during work, and not for messaging or social media.

I have noticed nannies with little kids in our local parks, all totally engrossed in a video on a phone, oblivious to the world around them. When necessary, I've been known to discreetly let the parents know, and they've always seemed appreciative. 

But some in Silicon Valley are so paranoid, the NYT report says, that they enlist the nannies as 'spies' to report on screen usage, or take photos to post on parenting groups of people on phones near kids captioned "Is this your nanny?" or "Did anyone have a daughter with a red bow in Dolores Park? Your nanny was on her phone not paying attention."

They call it "nanny-outing."

Have you implemented a no-phone policy with your caregiver?

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Tell us how you manage screen time with your caregivers, and we could publish your story. Anonymous contributions are always welcome.

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Read more:

Italy drafts 'no-mobile-phone phobia' law

Would you use "productivity and task-management software" to manage your home?

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