“Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive…But it’s very hard for a working adult to live at home without looking at a phone. And so, as with many aspirations and ideals, it’s easier to hire someone to do this. Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.” N. Bowles, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Silicon Valley Nannies Are Phone Police for Kids —By Nellie Bowles, The New York Times
“Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games,” said Jordin Altmann, 24, a nanny in San Jose, of her charges…’Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all,’ Ms. Altmann said. ‘In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal.’
From Cupertino to San Francisco, a growing consensus has emerged that screen time is bad for kids. It follows that these parents are now asking nannies to keep phones, tablets, computers and TVs off and hidden at all times. Some are even producing no-phone contracts, which guarantee zero unauthorized screen exposure, for their nannies to sign.
The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them. And it has put their nannies in a strange position.
‘In the last year everything has changed,’ said Shannon Zimmerman, a nanny in San Jose who works for families that ban screen time. ‘Parents are now much more aware of the tech they’re giving their kids. Now the parents will say ‘No screen time at all.’ Ms. Zimmerman likes these new rules, which she said harken back to a time when kids behaved better and knew how to play outside. Parents, though, find the rules harder to follow themselves Ms. Zimmerman said.
‘Most parents come home, and they’re still glued to their phones, and they’re not listening to a word these kids are saying,’ Ms. Zimmerman said. ‘Now I’m the nanny ripping out the cords from the PlayStations.’
Parents are now asking nannies to sign stringent ‘no-phone use contracts,’ according to nannying agencies across the region. ‘The people who are closest to tech are the most strict about it at home,’ said Lynn Perkins, the C.E.O. of UrbanSitter, which she says has 500,000 sitters in the network throughout the United States.
The phone contracts basically stipulate that a nanny must agree not to use any screen, for any purpose, in front of the child.’ We do a lot of these phone contracts now, Ms. Perkins said.
‘We’re writing work agreements up in a different way to cover screen and tech use,’ said Julie Swales, who runs the Elizabeth Rose Agency, a high-end firm that staffs nannies and house managers for families in the region.
‘Typically now, the nanny is not allowed to use her phone for any private use.’ This can be tricky. These same parents often want updates through the day.
‘If the mom does call and the nanny picks up, it’s, ‘Well what are you doing that you can be on your phone?’ Ms. Swales said. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens.
- Nannies have to sign stringent no-phone use contracts.
- These particular parents, after all, deeply understand the allure of screens.
- A growing consensus has emerged that screen time is bad for kids.
- The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley.
- Most parents come home, and they’re still glued to their phones.
- Some parents in Silicon Valley are embracing a more aggressive approach.
- Sometimes a nanny is perceived to be not paying enough attention to a child.
- The nanny spies are self-appointed.
- The forums, where parents post questions are now reckoning with public shaming and privacy issues.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
We’re ___ work ___up in a different way to___screen and tech use, said Julie Swales, who runs the Elizabeth Rose Agency, a ___firm that staffs___and house managers for___ in the region. Typically now, the ___is not allowed to use her ___for any private use.
WORD LIST: nanny, agreements, high-end, phone, writing, cover, nannies, families,
Grammar Focus: Identifying Prepositions
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article. For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.
Prepositions: in, for, of, with, by, on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over, through, from, during, up, off,
The posts follow a pattern: A parent will take a photo ___a child accompanied ___an adult who is perceived ___be not paying enough attention, upload it ___one ___the private social networks like San Francisco’s Main Street Mamas, home___ thousands___ members, and ask: “Is this your nanny?”
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- Have you ever worked as a nanny? If yes, describe your experience.
- Would you take a job as a nanny in Silicone Valley? Why or why not?
- In your opinion, is it good practice to keep all screens away from children? Provide reasons for your answers.
- The article states, “The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them. And it has put their nannies in a strange position.” Do you think that some parents have gone too far? Explain your response.
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.