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What to do if your Au Pair is addicted to the smartphone?

by Alena on Apr 28, 2020
What to do if your Au Pair is addicted to the smartphone?
Smartphone addiction is not a myth - many people experience the need to send/receive texts, messages, calls; to read the news, check Instagram, Facebook feed, or new TikTok videos. Well, it’s not completely their fault - many apps were purposely designed to be addictive. However, as a Host Family, you expect your Au Pair to be present and dedicated to her/his tasks. Although you can’t really tell the Au Pair what to do in her/his free time, you have the right to ask for more responsible behavior when she/he is taking care of your kids. 

Especially now, during the corona crisis, many people are staying at home, and Au Pairs spend more time with their Host Kids. Being distracted with a phone makes it very hard to connect with people, especially with children. And if the kids see that the Au Pair is more interested in her/his phone than in spending time with them, it would be very difficult to earn their trust again. So how to react if you face a situation like this? We collected some useful tips and advice to help you address the problem and deal with it. 

Prevention is the first step 

Of course, no one can predict how the Au Pair will behave when she/he arrives at your house. But what you can do is to try to know the person better and to explain your needs. During the video call ask about the candidate’s hobbies, free time, whether she/he has already been away from family and friends. Don’t forget to share your house rules and expectations and tell directly that one of your requirements is to devote all attention to the responsibilities during the working hours.

Open conversation 

If you noticed that the Au Pair is always on her/his smartphone and can’t finish her tasks in time, try to encourage her/him to explain to you the reason for this behavior. The Au Pair may feel homesick or miss her/his family, friends, or partner. It is very understandable, but it’s not an excuse to spend all time online. Maybe you can agree on a specific time when the Au Pair can chat, being aware of the different time zone and working schedules. 

It might be also possible, that the Au Pair doesn’t notice that the smartphone is “glued” to her/his hand. If this is the case, offer to take a simple test together or to track how much time she/he spend messaging (use apps like Checky and Moment or standard iPhone/Android time trackers). That may help the Au Pair to notice the problem and to solve it.

Create alternatives

Let’s face it: we all know routine can be boring, and the virtual world always has something new to offer. But you can try to make the everyday life more interesting. Talk to your Au Pair and your kids and create a list of possible activities together. For example, they can learn new languages together or teach each other how to dance. You can even set a digital detox challenge - the last person to check the phone during the day gets a cake! 

Make the rules clear

Before the Au Pair stay you had few calls to talk about the working hours, expectations, and tasks to put them in the contract. Make all things very clear from the beginning so the Au Pair doesn’t interpret anything. For instance, agree that in case of emergency you will call the Au Pair, not text, so she/he doesn’t have to check the phone instantly “waiting” for the message from you. 

Explain your concerns - if you have toddlers, of course, you are afraid they may get hurt when the Au Pair is not watching them. Don’t be too harsh but be precise that you can’t count the hours spent online as working time. 

If nothing helps, ask the Au Pair to turn off the notifications or even to leave the phone in the room when she/he is with kids. It may seem like over-caution but sometimes a clear refusal of using the phone is the only way to fight addiction.

Create phone-free times and places

Make breakfast, lunch and dinner phone-free times - especially if the Au Pair feeds the kid. Make sure that the Au Pair understands that using the phone during bathing, driving and playing with the kids (inside or on the playground) is forbidden. It’s important, that everyone in the family - Au Pairs, parents, kids, even friends - follow these rules. Because if you check your phone instantly you can’t expect Au Pair to be more mature, can you? 

Be aware of the consequences

Sometimes it helps to talk about the effects of our choices. Studies have shown that the smartphone addiction can cause anxiety, concentration loss, even depression. It can also disturb your sleep which can lead to memory problems and reduction of learning skills in the long run. Talk to your Au Pair about it and offer to read some studies together - you may also benefit from knowing this information if you ever face the same problem with your kids.

Do you have an efficient and creative way to deal with your Au Pair’s phone addiction? Share in comments!
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