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Virtual babysitting provides relief to overwhelmed parents amid pandemic

Posted at 4:44 PM, Apr 24, 2020

CHICAGO, Ill. – After about five weeks of staying at home, a lot of parents may be starting to crack. Juggling working from home, e-learning schedules and cabin-fever is the new reality. But childcare is taking a cue from teleconferencing.

“Parents are just extremely overwhelmed through all of this,” said Elizabeth Harz, CEO of Sittercity .

The 20-year-old childcare service that connects millions of caregivers with families recently launched virtual sitting.

“What a great way to even steal an hour to do a conference call or take a shower,” said Harz.

Two-parent households where both parents work full-time make up 46 percent of the U.S. population, and more than a quarter of American children live in single-parent homes.

“I was like, there's probably a lot of families going to run into this issue right now and we need to do our part to help out,” said Kyle Reilly.

New York City couple Kyle Reilly and Kristina Hanford started the Virtual Babysitter’s Club as a way to tap into a workforce of talented out-of-work performers to virtually babysit for parents.

“We got a lot of interest from performers and then a lot of interest from families and then we kind of realized we had something,” said Reilly.

Their programs focus on interactive activities to keep children engaged and entertained.

“The three to 6-year-olds have an art studio and music studio, they have dance parties, hang out parties and then for 7 to 12-year-olds we have trivia games, dance parties, music studio and arts as well,” said Hanford.

Costs are comparable to in-person sitting and can start at about $16.50 an hour.

“They really miss their teachers and their soccer coach and all those things. So, I think it's very healthy for them to connect with other adults even digitally throughout this crisis,” said Harz.

Of course, everyone agrees virtual sitting is a new tool not meant to replace physical care.

Elizabeth Harz says it’s still important to screen and vet the sitter, never leave children unattended and plan activities that work for your child’s needs.

“We're trying to create a lot of content to help people understand what this even means and how to do it safely and effectively,” said Harz.

It’s a new reality, in an evolving virtual world.