Virtual Babysitting Services in Demand for Working Parents in UK

Category: Education/Family

Listening

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. nanny / ˈnæn i / (n) – a person who is paid to take care of someone's child or children
    Example:

    Susan decided to go back to work, so she hired a nanny to watch her baby during the day.


  2. make time / meɪk taɪm / (idiom) – to reserve time for an activity or person despite being busy
    Example:

    My mom is very busy, but she always makes time to help me with my homework.


  3. buy into (something) / baɪ ˈɪn tʊ / (phrasal) – to agree with or support an idea or plan
    Example:

    I don’t buy into the idea that you need to go to college to be successful.


  4. inquire / ɪnˈkwaɪər / (v) – to ask for information
    Example:

    I’ve already inquired about the hotel’s group rates, but I haven’t received any reply yet.


  5. attention span / əˈtɛn ʃən spæn / (n) – the length of time that someone can focus their thoughts and interest on something
    Example:

    You need to be patient when teaching students with short attention spans.


Article

Read the text below.

Many working parents in the UK have resorted to virtual nanny services for their children in the past year.


Richard Conway, the founder of one of the biggest virtual babysitting companies in the country, said that younger children always need to be entertained. However, working parents might find it hard to make time for their kids. His company offers a solution to this problem by letting parents connect with a virtual nanny.


Conway’s virtual nanny service was designed to help parents focus on work while someone watches over their children through a video call. The service is offered to parents whose children are at least two years old. Most sessions last for around 60 to 90 minutes.


Conway said that many people did not buy into his idea of virtual nannies at first because they thought it would involve leaving children home alone. However, since Conway started Childcare.co.uk in 2009, over 50,000 parents have inquired about his company’s service. Currently, his company has more than 4,000 nannies who handle children both in and out of the UK.


According to one nanny from Childcare.co.uk, sessions are best carried out within an hour because children have short attention spans. She added that she makes the most out of the session by planning activities beforehand. Her sessions usually consist of stories, rhymes, games, and other activities.


The service has received varying feedback from parents. A senior lecturer in London who tried it said it took a while for her child to get used to the sessions, but it became easier for her to leave her child alone with the nanny over time.


Despite the usefulness of the service, however, one parenting book author believes that it might not be suitable for everyone. She said that on-screen interactions cannot replace being with people face to face and that meeting people only through a virtual set-up may have a lasting impact on children.


Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• What do you think could be some disadvantages of having virtual nannies? Explain.

• How can virtual nannies make sessions interesting and effective (e.g. prepare games, tell stories)? Discuss.


Discussion B

• Do you think it is a good idea for parents to hire nannies? Why or why not?

• What do you think parents can do to make sure that they are hiring a good nanny? Discuss.