… at least while s/he is On Duty caring for your kids.
SmartPhone addiction isn’t a metaphor– people actually get hooked on the physical rush of receiving a text. Like Pavlov’s dogs, a simple ‘ping’ starts them salivating for a connection with another person.
Another person on the other side of the smart phone, though.
Not that other person sitting in the high chair right in front of them, or on the swings across the playground, or patiently waiting– picture book in hand– for just one more story.
Not that other little person whose safety, comfort and growth they are in charge of.
Too much text-straction erodes the connection between a child and a caregiver.
We know this, and so we parents do our best to be good role models and look at our phones only when necessary if we’re otherwise supposed to be face-to-face engaged with our kids or other adults.
(Right? We all start there, with being a good role model? Okay then, moving on…)
Here are Three Ways to Help Your Au Pair Break a Texting-While-On-Duty- Addiction:
1. Clarify your rules regarding Texting While On Duty
It’s probably not the case that your au pair is texting away because s/he’s unaware of the rules. Still, this is a place to start so that s/he has no excuses if her or his texting habits don’t change immediately.
Make sure that your rules are sensible and concrete–
e.g., “Check your texts “on the hour”, not endlessly through the day. Tell your au pair friends to telephone you in an emergency, but to expect a text exchange only on the hour if you’re on duty.”
“We will always telephone your cell and the house phone if there is an emergency or we need to reach you right away. Expecting a text from us should never be the reason that you look at your phone any other time than at X o’clock.”
2. Change Your Actual Physical Systems
Sometimes we focus on changing a person’s behavior when instead we should be changing the systems that support or encourage their behavior.
It’s much easier to change a cell phones settings than it is for your au pair to consciously modify his or her behavior.
Why not help your Au Pair to avoid texting by changing your Au Pair’s cell phone setting so that s/he no longer gets audible notifications of messages, texting apps (or Facebook)?
You can make this a ‘coming on duty’ routine. Just like at the movie theatre, you can make a funny joke:
“Harry Stiles says says “It’s time to turn off text notifications: I promise I will not text you, until X o’clock today” … Time to Turn off Text Notifications”
Once text notifications are turned off, they can be turned back on when your au pair goes off duty.
“Time to turn on text notifications! Harry Styles is getting ready to text YOU!”
(Note: in my family, mentions of Harry get everyone’s attention. YMMV.)
3. Ask Your Au Pair to Track Her/His Time Spent Texting
One or two minutes an hour won’t be too awful, but imagine when your au pair realizes that s/he’s texting over 30 minutes an hour!
These apps also let the user set daily limits — this may be one way your au pair can choose to modify his/her texting behavior.
And, the whole family can use apps like these so that everyone is working towards the same goals– full on attention when on duty or in each other’s company, and aimless time-wasting texting when you’re ‘relaxing’ on your own.
4. What other tips do you have for limiting an Au Pair’s texting -while-on-duty?
It’s upsetting when an Au Pair doesn’t pay attention to your child(ren). When the very tools we use to keep connected lead us to disconnect from what matters most, it’s time to take action.
It can be a drag to take on this texting addition challenge.
I know, having done it with my own au pairs, my tweens, and even my spouse. Don’t even get me started on college students who text in my classroom.
On the plus side, everything you do to help your Au Pair limit her/his texting will help her/him be a more effective person later in life.
Sure, s/he might be the anomaly among her/ his peers, given the masses who are training themselves to go through life with bent necks and twitchy thumbs.
But that’s what good host parenting is– helping an au pair grow into a person who approaches life as an adventure, not as a few moments in between pings.
Here’s the email that prompted this post. What ideas do you have for this Host Dad?
I have provided an iPhone to my Au Pair with unlimited calls, text (within the U.S.) and data, so that she can communicate with me in case of emergency, have a maps app and get directions, as well as use apps for her personal use.
The problem is that she cannot go 5 minutes without texting.
I have a toddler who still puts things in his mouth and have asked my Au Pair to put the phone away when she is out with him, because even a 10-second text is enough for a toddler to grab something off the floor and put it in his mouth, or stick his fingers where he is not supposed to.
I think she is doing that when they are out. She seems responsible. However, at home, there are some child proofed areas and – like many tech savvy homes these days – we have cams (in full view, our Au Pair knows we can check remotely). We often see her texting away while our child is walking around looking bored or trying to get her attention.
When feeding him, the Au Pair checks her phone every 3 to 4 minutes. I don’t think she can go 5 minutes without checking her phone. And sometimes she starts texting and gets so absorbed by it, she seems to lose track of time and text away for 20 minutes or so.
While we’re not opposed to her texting, and surfing the web, good judgement should be exerted and she should put the child first all the time. If we wanted our child to roam around and spend a lot of his time doing stuff on his own, we would have put him in daycare where they have less interactions with adults.
Quality interactions with adults is what contribute the most to a baby and toddler’s development, hence why we prefer one on one integration until 3 years of age.
Our Au Pair is doing a good job otherwise, so how do we tell her to focus more on the child when he is awake (we’re OK if she wants to text away when he is sleeping), and point out that phone use is a bit excessive when she is caring for our child?
We don’t want to sound critical but this excessive phone use is a bad example for our child (we make it a point to put ours away), and is impacting the quality of interaction with our child.