'Virtual babysitting' becoming a COVID-19 tool for parents working from home; here's how it works

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Friday, May 1, 2020
'Virtual babysitting' becoming a COVID-19 tool for parents working from home
As parents continue to navigate today's "normal," some in the childcare industry are offering online options.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a world of new talent and tasks. For many, it means balancing a full-time job from home, with kids around.

The "new normal" for parents involves taking on remote learning responsibilities, preparing meals, completing chores and much more.

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Social distancing orders don't allow for babysitters to simply pop in for a few hours.

However, virtual babysitting could give parents the break they need.

"It is not a replacement, and certainly not for hours of childcare," Sittercity CEO, Elizabeth Harz told ABC7 News. "It's just another tool in the toolkit as parents are trying to navigate this situation."

Harz described Sittercity as a digital solution that connects families with babysitters.

She said, once COVID-19 hit, the company thought about how it could use its platform to help parents and babysitters looking for work.

"How could we help families- parents and kids- through this unusual, unprecedented time," she asked. "And how could we also help our sitters- who are unable to travel to jobs and make money during a very difficult economic time- to continue to work in some way?"

She said Sittercity is seeing interest from all over the country.

"Job posts in San Francisco, Hawaii, New York and Atlanta," Harz said, to name a few. "So it does seem to be an idea catching on all around the U.S."

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She said the all-new virtual babysitting sessions through Sittercity can last between 45 to 90 minutes. She said two children per session is the average.

In that time, sitters connect with children through various online video platforms like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime.

"This is really to give parents a bit of relief to make dinner, to take a phone call themselves, to work out," The Babysitting Company owner, Rachel Charlupski said. "Maybe they're going to help or assist another child in their home. So, just to give a bit of relief for them while they're closeby."

She described The Babysitting Company as a full service, private childcare agency.

Charlupski said she works with sports teams, private residences, hotels, groups, special events and the company even arranges for domestic and international travel.

For virtual babysitting sessions, Charlupski said 30 minutes to an hour is ideal for her company.

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"We have facilitated Zoom sessions, one-on-one. Of course, that's really popular," she explained. "All the way up to a few hundred children for large corporations- a lot of businesses do this as a perk for their employees while they're on conference calls themselves."

Charlupski said activities are essential for engagement.

"We have sitters who are art teachers, yoga instructors, dance instructors, singing instructors," she named. "And they're able to take their specialties and teach children, learn with them, educate and play. Even if they're not in the same room."

Virtual babysitting is becoming a new option to keep kids occupied as parents navigate today's normal.

"A few months ago, if you talked about virtual babysitting- paying someone in a different state, or house, or building to entertain your children- people would think that was a bit beyond their scope," Harz said. "But now, it's a very practical and helpful tool in the COVID-19 toolbox."

COVID-19 is clearly changing the way many think about childcare.

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