Au Pair Tech Update: Sharing SmartPhone Accounts & Apps while Staying Secure

by cv harquail on August 14, 2016

You know that whole argument that you should make sure both parents know how to diaper, feed, and soothe a baby, so that no one parent gets “stuck” with all the hardest work because the other parent quietly “deskilled” him/herself?

I paid attention to that advice with my kids, and contradicted it with our phones, broadband, AppleTV, Netflix, and every other tech-y entertainment4367063185_6eb254b1dd_m thing besides my own computers. Also, I did this with wine.  Why?  I just did. not. want. to. be. in. charge.

But that’s come back to bite me, because I can offer absolutely no advice on SmarterPhoneHostMom‘s question.

I suspect that some of you other Host Parents have stayed on top of SmartPhone Tech?  

Tell us how you manage sharing, staying in control, and staying safe, while also making sure your Au Pairs can use their phones for personal use.

Please weigh in here! 

I have a question about security for smart phones provided by the host family. Since the technology and carrier plans are constantly evolving I was wondering if anyone had some some new ideas and tips.  
For our previous Au Pair, we added a line to our Verizon account for an iPhone 5.  We wanted our Au Pair to have an iPhone because my husband and I have iPhones and we have family sharing set up so we can share locations and calendars with each other.     

I especially like the location tracking, because I can see in real-time where she is with the kids if they go anywhere, and if there was ever an issue like an accident or something we would be able to locate them easily. 
When we gave our first au pair the phone we just gave it to her and let her link to her own iTunes account so that her apps and email and everything she had on her iPod and MAC computer would be synched with the phone.  
My husband thinks that we should do things differently for our incoming au pair, and set the phone up under an iTunes account that we control so she can’t download her own apps and we control all the settings.  
I’m a little torn,  since I expect our Au Pair will also need a phone for personal, “off duty” use.  If we make the iPhone controllable by us, then she will either carry 2 devices with her if she goes out, or just bring the work phone but not be able to use the same apps that all her friends are on.
This would be kind of an inconvenience for her to have to carry two phones.  On the other hand, we are paying for the phone, and we should be able to manage it.
 
Part of the reason this came up is because our previous au pair was on messaging apps a lot during working hours. She had to be reminded a couple of times to leave the location tracking services on during working hours.  
Does anyone have any tips for how much security they put on smart phones they provide?
 It might be helpful for the au pair not to be tempted by social media, personal emails, and messaging apps during working hours, but I also don’t want to be too rigid and it would be nice to give her access to those things in her free time.
 
SmarterPhoneHostMom

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Frankfurt AP Boy August 14, 2016 at 6:00 pm

I really fail to see what the problem is with her downloading her own apps onto the phone nor why it is important to “keep control” of the phone. What problems are you trying to avoid? I feel like I am missing an obvious point.

If my host family said to me to not look at my phone while looking of the kids – I would be little offended because I’d feel they are saying I might not be paying close enough attention to the kids but to go further than that and to say that “we dont want you using your phone during working hours so we have put a block on it”… I would be very hurt. From my point of view, if you trust someone enough to look after your young children in a sole charge position they should be adult enough to use a mobile responsibly.

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NZ HM August 14, 2016 at 6:42 pm

@Frankfurt AP Boy: Unfortunately, many (aupairs, people?) don’t seem to be able to use their mobile phone ‘responsibly’ and unreasonable amounts of texting, messaging, facebooking etc. by aupairs seems to be a problem that comes up for host families time and time again.

I can’t help with the original question re phone security as we don’t provide a smart phone but I have a few thoughts and this is what we do:

We expect her not to make any personal calls / send messages during working hours; a quick text or answering to say she’s busy is ok.
We provide a very basic dumb phone (we pay for and monitor call credit) which I expect the aupair to carry with her at all times when she is out with the kids, so we can reach her and she can reach us/ the emergency services.
We expect her to leave her own phone in her room while on duty (if she needs to check the internet, e.g. for the weather, there is a computer in the house).
We do check internet use (amount of data up and downloaded) during working hours and expect this to me none to minimal. (we had an aupair who used to skype family while on duty and don’t want a repeat).
Our expectations and requirements obviously don’t guarantee that rules are being adhered to but none of our aupairs had any obvious issues with the policy. Most got their own sim cards for their own phones, one exclusively used the phone we provided and paid for credit herself (she kept dropping her own smart phone and it eventually stopped working…). So my feeling is, it’s ok for you to implement your rules, have a ‘locked-down’ phone for work and that it’s not too onerous for the aupair having to carry two phones.

In the end, the main purpose of you providing a phone is for you to be able to get in touch with her and not for her entertainment.

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Frankfurt AP Boy August 15, 2016 at 7:53 am

@NZ HM I just can’t marry up the idea of someone that is responsible enough to be trusted alone with your kids and someone who isn’t responsible enough to manage their mobile use responsibly; even after a stern talking to. It is because of this dichotomy that I’d feel so offended by blocking measures. From where I’m standing, either the blocking measures are unnecessary or the HF have made a big mistake in employing that individual. I suspect there would also be a host of other problems with an AP that cant stay off social media despite what the HF want or say.

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SA_Au Pair August 15, 2016 at 8:29 am

I wouldn’t be comfortable matching with a family that thought I was responsible enough to look after their children unsupervised but for some reason they have to control what apps I use. This isn’t an issue of the apps, it’s a personal issue, the au pair could end up buying /bringing her own phone and using messaging apps the whole day so the problem would never be solved. If someone wants to text people the whole day they’ll find a way…with or without you controlling what apps they can use. I’d say clearly mention that you don’t want her using the phone for personal use during work hours and that that’s just something you won’t tolerate. If you can’t trust your au pair to follow what to me seems like a simple rule, then you have a whole other problem.

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2 kids and a cat August 15, 2016 at 8:46 am

Most business employers have stipulations on what is and is not allowed on work-provided equipment, including phones, computers, vehicles. Indeed, if AP wants to use the work-provided phone in ways we do note condone, then she is not the AP for us.

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Frankfurt AP Boy August 15, 2016 at 3:33 pm

If the AP wanted to use her phone to download apps or go on the internet then she wouldnt be the AP for you? That seems a little harsh. It is a normal thing to want to do.

NZ HM August 15, 2016 at 5:41 pm

I agree, 2 kids and a cat. I don’t see the issue: if the employer/ HF provides the phone they can decide what facilities/ apps to make available on it. It’s a work phone and not for fun (just as my computer at work doesn’t have any games installed and access to social networking sites ets is blocked). The aupair can choose to have another phone for personal use and set it up the way she wants.
I don’t think it matters whether it’s about trying to control what the aupair does (with the phone) during work hours and whether it is the best approach to achieve this. If a HF decides to provide a non-fun, work phone with limited access to apps then that’s their valid choice.

SA_Au Pair August 17, 2016 at 3:54 am

The OP’s issue doesn’t seem to be with the phone but how the phone is used. The phone belongs to the host family and they can do with it whatever they want; my point is that it doesn’t matter whether or not she restricts the phone because the au pair could easily use her own phone. This isn’t a “I don’t want my au pair using the phone I’m giving her to text her friends” issue, it seems to be a “my au pair is texting during work hours, what can I do about it?” issue. Phones don’t text people on their own, people do that; and restricting the phone isn’t going to solve anything because it’s the behaviour of the au pair that needs to change. It’s common courtesy to not text when you’re in the company of others; when you’re driving and when you’re working, the OP should simply state that she doesn’t want the au pair using her phone while at work and that there will be consequences if she’s found using ANY phone (hers or the host family’s). Simple. It’s strange how a few host moms are focused on the fact that the phone isn’t the au pair’s; as au pairs we know that nothing (except the things we bring with us) in your house is ours; it’s not our car, or our phone, that room isn’t really ours, nothing is ours, and it’s not nice being constantly reminded of that.

future_AP February 20, 2017 at 10:10 pm

I think that the HF can do whatever they want about the phone because they’re paying for it. BUT I wouldn’t be comfortable in a family that block my phone and treat me just like an employee. I think that the relationship between an AP and a HF is more than that.

For the most APs paying for a carrier plan could have a impact on their budget and is probably nothing for a HF

I think the most important thing to do is have a conversation with your AP, set the rules and trust that the person you trust your children will follow the rules.

And PLEASE, be comprehensive. Sometimes it’s naptime and your AP did everything she had to do, and just want a break to have a look in their social media accounts, it’s not a big deal if she/he finished the work.

HMAdvice August 18, 2016 at 9:42 am

I think the AP’s on this thread need to understand that a lot of these HP are responding to previous encounters with au pairs. Frankfurt AP Boy, I kind of agree with you in that this is kind of a deal where someone is either responsible or they are not but I also understand that from a HP perspective, precautions need to be taken from the start until that AP has earned the trust of the HF. It is a lot easier to start with restrictions and ease up once the AP has proven themselves. The phone can be a big deal. I personally wasn’t really ever concerned with app usage but I would be if it started eating up my data plan. I also didn’t like texting during the day but I did let that slide a bit because I know she texted to make play dates and things like that as well. As far as reminding an AP that HF property is not their own, here is the thing, there are good responsible AP’s that probably do a great job at taking care of their HF property but there also a ton of stories where AP’s haven’t been that considerate of their HF property.Unfortunately, AP’s might be dealing with the ramifications of those that came before them. I don’t think the HF is trying to make any AP uncomfortable. In my house, I would just be trying to make the AP understand. My opinion is that restrictions on the phone is a little over kill but there are third party tools you can probably get if you really wanted to monitor. It would be a bigger deal if there were legal issues involved but generally if you feel like that isn’t and issue, I am not sure I would go to those lengths. You have to remember too that trust is kind of a two way street. If you give them a little they may respond more in kind to you. I did like location sharing and that was more for a piece of mind than a trust issue. Kind of like, do you want me to call you while you are out or do you want me to just look on my phone? I probably would put restrictions on texting during work hours to make sure that is clear and I would also outline what the ramifications would be if those rules were broken.

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MiataMom August 19, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Hi, I’m the OP. Sorry for chiming in so late! I certainly understand the debate between trusting someone to follow the rules and setting a restriction (I’m usually the trusting one, and my husband is the restrictions one). Generally, I would rather provide someone with the latest and greatest tools that are out there and trust that they will use it responsibly. HOWEVER, we’ve found that with our previous AP and also even in our own lives, when the phone that you carry with you is constantly distracting you with messages and other alerts it makes it a lot harder than if it’s out of sight. If an AP left her phone that she used for social media and other personal things in her bedroom during working hours it would help her stay unplugged from all that. If the device that we are requiring her to have on her at all times is the thing that is constantly distracting her, then I feel like we’re creating an unnecessary challenge for her. I have the same problem myself when I have work emails and Skype messages (we use Skype a lot in my office) coming in after hours, and I try to set the best example for the kids by not replying… but it is so tempting. With our previous AP, when I would drop in during a lunch or other break to see the kids her phone was constantly dinging with messages coming in from WhatsApp (mostly from other APs, btw).

Our previous AP was very trustworthy, but she had a bad habit that was really hard for her to kick. I feel like having all the distracting apps on her phone was kind of setting her up for failure.

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future_AP February 20, 2017 at 10:17 pm

I totally understand your point. But if you set a rule for your AP and she is not following (use the phone for personal stuff during the work) why do you think that she/he is following the rule of let her/his personal phone in the bedroom?

For me thet only thing that can solve this problem is having a conversation and explain why do you want something and trust that the person you choose to take care of you kids will respect your desire.

NewAPMom August 27, 2016 at 8:16 am

Yes I would say if it got to the level of blocking apps, etc, then that is not the AP for me. First AP I had to tell at least 3 times not to use the phone when working, LCC talked to her, and she still did it! In retrospect I should have rematched. We now explain to all incoming APs that the phone may not be used while on duty except to contact us, look up something, etc. Fortunately my kids are now old enough that they can tell me what’s going on.

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txmom August 14, 2016 at 8:34 pm

We have provided an iphone 5 and added it to our account as well. She uses her own apple ID, and we will factory wipe it when she’s done, for the next au pair. I have no problem with her having her own apps. I think most au pairs are grateful enough to have a smartphone with data paid for that they use it appropriately. Ours certainly does. She’s an adult and I want no part of monitoring her usage or controlling her apps. If you have an au pair that repeatedly uses the phone during work time when you have asked her not to, that is a bigger problem – having more to do with not following the job description and rules you’ve outlined, less to do with particular apps etc.

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American Host Mom in Europe August 15, 2016 at 3:06 am

+1

The only change we make is stipulating that location tracking must be off for photos and videos of our home or children, so no one could determine where we live or where the children are from finding AP’s shared photos.

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DCBurbTwinMomma August 15, 2016 at 5:53 am

This is our approach as well. Our au pairs each have iPhones on our shared data plan. They use data responsibly and during work hours limit usage. If they cannot, I think we’d have a rules-following issue and not a smartphone issue. They do have to ask permission any time they want to post a photo of my kiddos–otherwise the phone is theirs for the year(s) they are with us.

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2 kids and a cat August 15, 2016 at 7:13 am

We saybtatvwe provide a phone forvworkmpurposes. if she would like to use it socially on her off time, she is welcome to do so (of course she does, but our exoectations are clear this way). We hand over the phone for her to set up. The rule is no social use of the phone during work hours. This year I included turning off notifications because te buzzing last year got to me.

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Jennc August 15, 2016 at 9:12 am

We have always provided a smart phone , of course our last one has been used for 3 years and not so great . My current Aupair wanted to buy her own Apple iPhone because they are expensive in her country . So it is very easy to activate it and link to our (old phone number ) to get phone and when she leaves deactivate it and she can then have it activated in her own country . This helps because it’s her phone her responsibility she loses or breaks it her problem . We own the number and can relink it to an old phone when she leaves or a new one . They create there own iTunes account they know our preferences on phone use with kids I ask that when we are eating dinner or with kids to not use social media or be on phone . I don’t state a rule I state this is what we don’t like or I state preferences . My Aupair is required to have her phone in case I need her so I know that it’s always available . However when I come home it’s usually on the counter not next to her when she is with my daughter . I don’t micromanage my Aupair or her phone . I don’t track them either . I trust my Aupair and we don’t live in big city . She is free to entertain my child and fill their day with any activities. I’m too busy at my own job to constantly check where they are she knows schedule activities are clearly stated and she has no problem getting kids from school , dropped off at preschool pickup , taken to activities etc . I hired an “adult” Aupair not one who needs constant supervision in her job .

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HMof2 August 15, 2016 at 10:33 am

We provide the mobile/data plan but ask our AP to provide the phone. They bring their own from home or buy one here. This avoids the issue of what we would do if the AP breaks or looses the phone since it is her own phone and her responsibility to keep it safe.

Since we want our AP to be reachable while working, we pay for the plan and tells her that she is provided a plan for work purpose but she can use it for personal purpose outside of work only. We are very clear when interviewing that we expect the AP not to be on the phone for personal reasons – that texting, chatting, and any other social media use is not acceptable while she is working, that she let’s call go into voicemail and return it later, ask family and friends to call/text back later or she calls/texts them back later, after work. We also expect the AP not to be on her phone if she is at the table having dinner with us, explaining that dinnertime is when we talk and catch up with each other and we do not want everyone at the table to be eating with their heads down staring at their phone.

These are mentioned in our handbook which we share with AP before matching. We monitor data usage because we share the family data plan with the AP and do not want data usage to go over but we do not monitor anything else. We tell the AP that she is permitted a certain GB of data each month and she will have to reimburse us for any overage.

This introduces a degree of responsibility on being more conservative about data and use WIFI when she can. We have not experienced any AP going over data use. We always deactivate the phone number at the end of each AP term and get a new number for the new AP. We don’t reuse the phone number so to avoid the new AP being bothered by calls meant for the previous AP. We set the bar at the beginning so there is no excuse for the AP to not be fully informed and say that they had no idea about our expectations. We had other issues with AP but not about phone use while working. I think if there is an issue about social use of phone while working, it is a symptom of a larger issue.

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Christina August 15, 2016 at 10:46 am

I think if you feel the need to have that much control over the au pair’s cell phone, perhaps this is not the right au pair for you. We have smart phones and data plans for our au pairs. The text other au pairs during working hours to set up playdates and organize activities. If the use during working hours seemed excessive, I’d ask that the use be limited. If the au pair cannot follow the rules you set out (like limiting cell phone usage during working hours), then the au pair likely isn’t a good long term fit. I would imagine you’d run into problems whether they used your cell phone or their own.

I also think it is a bit unrealistic to set out rules for au pairs that you wouldn’t follow yourself. I check my email/texts while I’m home with the kids. I don’t do it excessively, but I do do it. I don’t consider that irresponsible and I wouldn’t consider it irresponsible for my au pair to do the same.

I’ve had au pairs for 8 years. I think the leading indicator of success is whether you feel you can treat your au pair as another responsible adult. If, for any reason, you don’t feel that way, it is unlikely to be a good match.

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ExAupairNowHM August 15, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Agree with everything Christina said. Our approach as well.

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momo4 August 15, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Agree completely. This is also my point of view, well put.

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WarmStateMomma August 16, 2016 at 7:45 am

+1

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FullCircle August 16, 2016 at 8:23 am

exactly my thoughts!

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TiredAuPair August 16, 2016 at 12:25 pm

I could not agree more with this! Many families treat au pairs as “less”, and it is just not fair. I am not on my phone all the time, but I take pictures, read emails if there is something important going on. If I get a text, I see if it is worth responding to. And I am sure many HP’s do the same, as @Christina said. In fact my HM is on her phone 99% of the time, even when with the kids.

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WarmStateMomma August 16, 2016 at 1:21 pm

To be fair, I use my phone for work or household stuff while around the kids (but not during meals, while driving, etc.). I use it for social purposes about as much as I’m comfortable with the AP doing.

My best guess is that our APs have spent 10-15 minutes per work day on their phones (based on the amount of time I see them on their phones on their days off). That’s fine with me considering they work a 10-hour day and don’t have a lunch break like a lot of other jobs. We also like receiving the adorable photos of the kids during the day.

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MiataMom August 20, 2016 at 12:44 am

I’m not talking about locking down the whole phone, just not allowing the social media apps to be downloaded. Our previous AP who was otherwise very good had a serious addiction to her phone that was very hard for her to break. She didn’t even notice it herself until we pointed it out to her and then she acknowledged that it was a big problem for her. The idea behind keeping the apps on their own device would be that they wouldn’t carry that with them during working hours so they wouldn’t be a constant distraction. I am also guilty of taking care of personal business on occasion during working hours, and I am totally fine with our AP doing the same (i.e. a quick Skype with family or responding to a message here and there), but excessive use of messaging and social media apps became a big problem with our previous AP. I want to give our new AP the tools to have a really successful year, and I’m afraid that if we have a bunch of distracting social media apps on her phone that we’re requiring her to carry with her for work we may be setting her up for failure or making things more difficult for her than they have to be.

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HMof2 August 15, 2016 at 10:52 am

As for location tracking on phones, we have not been using this. We keep track the non-techie way. We ask our AP to text us where she is going with the kids each time she takes them out and when she plans to be back. Sure, this does not offer real-time location but we have not felt the need to know their exact GPS location at all times. We rather have her tell us than for us to look up her GPS ( feels a little like spying …). We trust that our AP tells us the truth of where she is taking the kids. If we don’t trust that, then there is a bigger issue.

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massmom August 15, 2016 at 4:53 pm

We ask our au pairs to use Life360 for location tracking while they are on duty, but it’s something my husband and I use as well. If she wants to know when to pop dinner in the oven, she can check when we’re about to get home from the office. I like being able to check when my husband might be getting home from a trip or errand without the need to call or text him a million times. And I also like seeing what the kids are up to during the day without the need to get a stream of text messages. But she knows she is welcome to turn off location sharing when she is off duty. For us, it is not about trust, but more about convenience.

I think it’s unrealistic to expect a young person to be totally cut off during the day…she needs to be able to arrange playdates, make evening plans with friends, etc. It’s pretty easy to tell when an au pair is abusing personal the phone, without totally locking down use. Is her phone usually on the counter when you get home, or always right next to her? Does she text you right back (indicating she’s glued to her phone), or within a reasonable amount of time (suggesting she’s only checking her phone periodically)? Is she regularly going over her data plan? If there’s a problem, you can address it.

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GitHM August 16, 2016 at 2:07 pm

We recently had a problem where our two month in au pair went over by 100 texts in a span of 3 days (many texts during work hours). We firmly reminded her of the house rules of only doing quick texts and replys during work hours and she said she would never do it again. I trust her and believe she’s sorry, but I still wonder if she can keep her promise. The texts were from her new boyfriend and new boyfriends can be distracting. It’s impossible to know if she’s instant messaging or on her phone during work hours because she is connected to wifi at home and she uses WhatsApp with her friends. I’m tempted to control this behavior by changing the password to the wifi while she’s working, but that’s a little extreme.

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Anon for this one August 16, 2016 at 5:51 pm

GitHM- You simply have to take her word, if you do not trust her with something as simple as that, there is a bigger problem. Is it a issue that she has a new boyfriend? Because they way it looks to me, is that the texting is something to be mad about, because you have no control as to if she has a boyfriend or not. Turning off the wifi is VERY extreme… This upsets me a little when fellow HM’s treat their au pairs like another child in their home. These young ladies are adults, many of them have lived on their own before and now they are being babied up again. I let me au pairs know what I expect of them and also remind them that they are an adult in my house, not one has disappointed me thus far. No car accidents, work always done (and done well), my kids are happy, always home at a reasonable. Many of my AP’s friends always complain as to how they cannot wait to return home, as they are treated like a child by their HF. I truly feel sorry for these girls. I was an au pair many moons ago and I can relate to these girls. Just picture yourself in their shoes, maybe that will help.

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hOstCDmom August 17, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Having Wifi at work to which one can connect/use with a smartphone, is nice, but it is a privilege/perq — not a right. There are many employers who do not permit employees to connect to wifi on personal devices/do not make available access to the company wifi network for employee use that is not work related and on work equipment. And some employers do not allow personal use of internet (no checking the weather, no checking email, no reading the newspaper, no doing your banking during lunch) on work equipment. Some employers even use cellular blocking to prevent cellular data being used on work premises (often due to the confidential nature of the work, trade secrets etc.). So, while I agree turning off the wifi at home during work hours is extreme, it isn’t necessarily treating the AP like a child. It is treating the AP like an employee.

MiataMom August 20, 2016 at 12:32 am

We were almost to the point of turning off the WiFi with our previous AP. We had conversations about it with her. She had a very hard time kicking her phone habit, and I feel like the presence of the social media apps on her work phone made things so much harder for her. This isn’t about treating someone like an adult or not because many adults have the same problem, and I don’t think GitHM’s comments about the boyfriend had anything to do with her being angry about the new boyfriend – she was simply acknowledging and sympathizing with the fact that boyfriends can be distracting. To me, if someone is struggling with a rule you should do your best to help them be successful. We wanted to HELP our AP break a bad habit. She even acknowledged this was a problem for her. The idea of not putting the social media apps on the phone in the first place is to avoid a similar situation, these can be huge distractions that might be better not to have in the first place. I’d rather not allow them to begin with than have to take them away later. I’m thinking if an AP wants to have them she can use them on her own device that she does not carry with her during working hours.

Anonymous in CA August 17, 2016 at 12:06 am

I’ve actually started telling the AP not even to reply at all to texts during the day unless they’re from me. At my job, there are no cell phones allowed for staff during work. Full stop.

I find the grey space between a couple here and there, a quick reply, and the undefined “too much” is too tempting for an AP (at least for ours). If AP is working and doesn’t reply to a text, the sender will understand that she can’t reply at the moment…no need to text back to say “I’m working, will text you later.” It’s implicit in her lack of reply. I also think that as soon as AP texts back to say, “I’m working, will text you later,” the sender inevitably texts again with another “quick message.” Pretty soon they’ve exchanged 3-4 texts. If you don’t respond to texts very quickly, your friends won’t expect it.

I never never never wanted to go there – seems totally invasive. But I have unfortunately found 3 times over that texting habits are hard for an AP (and many others) to break. And I’ve heard it all: wasn’t a text, it was Skype; wasn’t a text, it was WhatsApp; the other person texted me first, etc.

Even after I told one AP who was having a very very hard time curbing her phone use during her shift that texting during work is grounds for rematch, this happened….

Me: “HC tells me you were texting during that beautiful hike you guys took today.”
AP: “No no. I didn’t text anyone. My [fill in the blank relative] texted to ask what I was up to.”
Me: “and you replied?”
AP: “yeah, sure, of course, and I sent a picture too”
Me: “so you were texting during work….again.”
AP: “No, [X] texted me.

Or, we hosted a rematch AP and I told her my one very hard and fast rule is no texting during work. She said of course, she’d never text while working. Guess what….it’s hard to ignore a text. She started carrying her purse with her everywhere in the house (from the sofa to the kitchen, from the kitchen to the yard, from the yard to the bathroom, from the bathroom to the living room) and it took me all of 5 minutes to see that she thought she could discretely check her phone dozens of times throughout the day without anyone noticing… she did it right in front of me!

So, I have become pretty cynical about this and err on the side of very restrictive as to personal phone use while working.

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Frankfurt AP Boy August 17, 2016 at 12:03 pm

To an British English reader your choice of screen name is unfortunate. A git is “an unpleasant or contemptible person.”.

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GitHM August 17, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Try googling, “git software” :)

Mimi August 17, 2016 at 5:13 pm

If an AP can’t resist the temptation that wi-fi presents, there’s no reason you can’t have a conversation about that and discuss the possibility that turning off the wi-fi during the day might be helpful to remove the temptation and break bad habits. The only time I’d do this was under these circumstances. I personally appreciate times when there is no signal/wi-fi so that it’s easier for me to unplug and I’ve had APs who like the restriction. I’ve also happily played the heavy so that some APs can tell their hyper-communicative friends and relatives that they can’t text during the day because they don’t want to get in trouble with their HM.

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MiataMom August 20, 2016 at 12:18 am

We actually did get to the conversations about turning off the wi-fi during the day with our previous AP. I’d rather it not get to that though, which is why I thought limiting social media apps would be a good way to help avoid the temptation of being on the phone so much in the first place.

MiataMom August 20, 2016 at 12:15 am

We’re not talking about totally cutting her off – only cutting off the social media. With our previous AP we had numerous talks with her about her personal use of the phone because it seemed like every time we turned around she had her face buried in it. I work from home, so there was a lot of opportunity for me to check in throughout the day and I was disturbed by how many times that when I did she was on her phone. She acknowledged that this was a problem for her, and that before we pointed it out she didn’t realize how bad it was, but she had a really hard time kicking the habit. I totally understand how hard it is to unplug yourself when there are group conversations or some other important thing going on that you’re missing out on, so I thought it might be better not to allow downloading of social media apps on the phone in the first place to help avoid the temptation. I don’t mind random checking of messages throughout the day, but I’m trying to find a good balance.

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WarmStateMomma August 16, 2016 at 7:52 am

Our AP has an iPhone 5. I showed her how to use the location sharing feature – and how to do it for limited amounts of time. We don’t use it that often, but I’ve asked her to turn it on if she is in a car accident, felt like she was an in an unsafe situation and asked us to pick her up, etc. So far, we’ve only used it to show where I am when we’re trying to meet up with her. I like the idea of being able to find her more easily than our last AP who had a car accident and couldn’t tell us exactly what point along the highway she was on. But I also stress that we also want to respect her privacy and that we value mutual trust, so the location sharing is only used on an as-needed basis.

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Mimi August 15, 2016 at 12:38 pm

We don’t provide smartphones for our AP and we’re not big users of the ones we have, so our data plan is minimal. There are no phones at the dinner table and we limit electronic use for our kids, also. We pay for a flip phone with unlimited talk and text so that we can communicate with them. It does have a location feature that we’ve used only when the phone has been misplaced. We usually try to get the AP’s personal phone added to our plan (which would have been without data), but it has never worked and the current AP carries the two phones when she goes out. (HD does also–one personal and one for work.)

Most APs have brought their own smartphones to use with wi-fi and we’ve never limited their use but we have had to have the occasional conversations about use while on duty early in their time with us. This is mostly about trying to stay in touch with friends and family that are 6+ hours ahead but we’ve always allowed them to Skype with family during HK#4’s nap or with her there for short times.

Over the last 8 years hosting, we’ve noticed that APs are more attached to their phones. It’s true for us as HP as well, and age has nothing to do with it. We don’t use iPhones, but I work with a mom that added Pumpic to an new iPhone for her 13 y/o daughter. I’m not sure how restrictive it is but there are many programs out there that I’m sure would work for what you need. The OP says this came up because of an issue with the previous AP and I agree with txmom that this is more an issue of someone not following the rules you’ve prescribed and should be dealt with as such.

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WestMom August 15, 2016 at 1:06 pm

We provide an iPhone. I set it up with an AppleID I created specifically for our Au Pair phone and it is not linked to any credit card account. She can download free apps and can use them at will when off duty. It would never cross my mind to ask her to enable location services so I can know where she is, whether be alone or with my kids. I trust AP and know where she takes my kids on a daily basis.

We have had caretakers for 15 years now, and I am sort of thankful we started out before smartphones, trackers and internet cameras. There is so much technology available these days to follow our children every movement but personally, I know that tracking with those tools would provoke more anxiety than peace of mind. And peace of mind is exactly what I need when I hire a childcare worker.

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Full Circle August 15, 2016 at 6:25 pm

We let our first AP create her own account for the iPhone we provided and I’m doing it differently this time. She had changed the settings and didn’t delete her account before she left, which resulted in us having to call Apple customer service to delete her account, because only she could do it (you need the password but the account wasn’t set up properly so we needed ALL of her info). It was a pain! We were able to work it out but that highlighted to me that if we were to have a bitter rematch (an AP wanted to be difficult) we would have “hack” and jailbreak our phone to get her account deleted. So we have created an AP account under our family share. That just gives us the control over the device itself. You can set it up for her to request to make purchases or downloads (what we are doing), or just allow her to do it on her own. If you do the latter, I would make it really clear that she is to pay for all app/music purchases since those would be charged to your credit card. However, she can still add her email, contacts, personal calendars, and whatever apps she wants. Most social media apps are free and she can choose to purchase apps if she wants (and reimburse us). To us, that sort of help give us the best of both worlds where we control the phone (location services, etc) but she can make it her own while she’s here. This should prevent the need for her personal phone.

Now the phone use during work is a different issue. This won’t go away if you provide a phone with restrictions. She will just use her own. That’s a problem to discussed and solved with AP.

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MiataMom August 20, 2016 at 12:04 am

So here’s what we’ve figured out so far. Our AP arrives in a couple of weeks, and I’ve set up the iPhone with an Apple ID and that we’ve created to be used for all future APs. This way, we won’t have to re-setup the phone every time we change APs. We have a shared calendar and a personalized map that has locations stored on it of places she might need to help her learn her way around. I’ve also pre-loaded a bunch of local and emergency contacts. She will be able to add her own email address so she can get her personal email on the phone, which will be easy for us to remove after she leaves without deleting all of the stuff we’ve preloaded for the next AP.

I’m still on the fence if I want her to download WhatsApp and some of the other social media messaging apps on the phone. Even though you can change the settings on these to not give instant alerts, nobody is going to go into their settings and turn off all the alerts on different apps and the beginning and end of each day.

Our previous AP was addicted to her phone, and her phone was constantly going off with alerts. I see how this can be distracting for anyone, and it definitely doesn’t make it easy for someone who is trying to kick a bad phone habit. This is why I thought it would be good to have a fresh start with no messaging apps. I’m thinking that if she wants to use those, she can do that from another device that she doesn’t carry with her all day long.

As far as the location tracking goes, I don’t see why more people don’t use this. To me it’s not about trust, it’s just a great tool to have. My husband and I also have location sharing turned on, so she would be able to see where we were if she wanted to at any time as well. I realize this may seem kind of stalkery to some people, but I use it pretty much daily in order to time dinner close to when my husband gets home from work. He has over an hour commute, so I can check and see where he is before I throw something in the oven. It’s also nice to not have to have our AP tell me every place that she’s going.

We have a schedule so we generally know where they are, but there are parks and other places she takes the kids in the afternoons and I don’t want to have to get a message every time they go out – I’d rather just like the peace of mind knowing that if I wanted to know where they went I could find out. Or if there was an emergency or an accident, it would be very easy to locate them.

Our AP lost the phone one time before this was turned on and we had to spend the evening driving around to everywhere she’d been trying to help her locate it. I think it’s silly not to have this feature turned on, even if you don’t use it, because it’s one of those things that if you do need it for some reason you’ll be glad you have it.

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Full Circle August 24, 2016 at 7:37 pm

Your logic about AP having social media apps in her personal phone assumes that she would leave it in her room. If she wants to be on social media, she will just carry both phones. That rule would work only if 1) she was extremely committed not to use social media during work hours, in which case you wouldn’t be having a problem or 2) she’s out of the house in a non wifi place all the time during work hours and has no internet connection on her personal phone. Otherwise, I just don’t see how not allowing social media apps in her work phone makes any difference. If she wants to use it, she will. I’m not saying requesting no social media isn’t a good idea, I’m just thinking that this is not going to be an effective solution.

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2 kids and a cat August 24, 2016 at 8:59 pm

Our rule is no alerts during work hours. She’s welcome to turn them on and off, but I never want to hear a buzz when she should be watching my kids. Tell her the alternative is to uninstall them.

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MiataMom August 24, 2016 at 10:23 pm

I think a no-alert rule would accomplish what I’m going for. It would cut the distractions and if she really wanted to deal with the hassle of turning on and off all the alerts every day that would be her choice. I think it’s easier to enforce leaving the social media device in their room during the day than remembering to turn off alerts, but I guess we could give it a try.

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