Stressed Out Parents Now Hire Virtual Baby Sitters

“Overwhelmed parents are paying professionals to virtually babysit while they work.” H. Kelly, The Washington Post

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Babysitter Victoria Rodriguez from the Babysitting Company talks to a 3-year-old about his toy over a Zoom video call. Credit- Heather Kelly:The Washington Post


Excerpt: Parents hire Zoom babysitters so they can shelter in peace, By Heather Kelly, The Washington Post

Babysitting used to go something like this: A local teenager comes over to the house after school to play with the kids, then tucks them into bed and spends the remainder of the evening texting from the sofa. All so the parents can unwind after a long week of working in offices by eating and drinking in a crowded restaurant.

Now, babysitting is something that happens over a Zoom or FaceTime call during the day, usually for an hour or less, a few feet from those same parents. But instead of downing margaritas and laughing, they’re taking conference calls, catching up on emails, helping their other kids with home schooling, or just locking themselves in the bathroom for a quick cry.

Over the past two months, millions of Americans have discovered the impossibilities of simultaneously working, parenting, and teaching full time from home. To help ease the strain, they’ve had to get creative with more screen time of all kinds. Now some parents are paying people to spend time with their children virtually.

They’re asking their usual sitters whether they can hire them to keep kids busy over video. On, a marketplace for caregivers from nannies to health aids, a handful of workers are updating their profiles to say ‘virtual only.’ Existing babysitting services are training their child-care workers on techniques to keep kids engaged over screens, and new companies are popping up to offer virtual-only sitters... a high-end service out of Miami called the Babysitting Company, touts its ‘curated’ child-care offerings in major cities.

It’s still offering some in-person babysitting, with new rules and safeguards for the novel coronavirus but has transitioned many of its sitters to virtual sessions. The company charges $36 for a 45-minute video session, and clients must pay for four hours minimum, to be used at different times…At first, the company offered virtual babysitting for kids 5 and older but has since done a session for a child as young as 2½ years old, which worked. Still, she’s careful to manage parents’ expectations. Sessions can go up to an hour but she doesn’t recommend much longer… The demand for virtual babysitting might increase as the school year, in its mostly virtual form, comes to an end next month and parents who have to work are faced with even less help over the summer.”

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

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions:  Ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic of virtual babysitting during COVID-19.  Next, have students generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming chart by UIE


II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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.

  1. Parents  need to unwind after a long week of working.
  2. Today, instead of downing margaritas and laughing, they’re taking conference calls.
  3. To help ease the strain many parents have hired online sitters.
  4. A handful of workers are updating their profiles to say ‘virtual’ only.
  5. Existing babysitting services are training their child-care workers new techniques to keep kids engaged over screens.
  6. It’s a living person on the other side of the screen that’s reading your cues.
  7. One mother goes through a high-end service out of Miami.
  8. One service called the Babysitting Company, touts its curated child-care offerings in major cities.
  9. Babysitting services are careful to manage parents’ expectations.
  10. Some parents do freelance writing and editing work from home.

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

People use/uses this service differently about/from a babysitter, said/sayAfrick. While before the/an pandemic, the commitment for/on a sitter was a/an few hours, a virtual sitter can/could be book/booked for shorter periods of/near time beyond/throughout the day — just long enough to get some housekeeping or work/worksdone/did or even take a shower.

Reading Comprehension

Identify TheSpeakers

Directions:Have students read the following quotes from speakers in the article tosee if they can identify the speakers.

  1. “It’s not like you’re watching a show or something that isn’t tuned in to you. It’s a living person on the other side that’s reading your cues,seeing if you’re interested or not interested.”
  2. “If you would have told me this is something we’d be offering, I’d never have believed it. It’s such a personal-contact-based profession.”
  3. “The hardest part, she said, is bringing them back when they walk out of the camera’s range.”
  4. “It doesn’t always keep him occupied for the desired two hours, says Upton-Cosulich, and if he’s tired or anxious, he prefers his parents.”
  5. It is a viable option if you’re willing to be a little bit unorthodox and give it a try.”


Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. According to the article, why wouldn’t parents want screen baby sitters sessions to spend no longer than an hour with the kids?
  2. Why is video time with avirtual baby sitter better than having kids watch Netflix and YouTube for long periods of time?
  3. According to baby sitters what seems to be the hardest part of keeping young children entertained?
  4. Whatare some of the the differences between hiringa sitter before the pandemic and hiring virtual sitters now?
  5. What new information have you learned from this article?



Directions: In 5 minutes to write down three new ideas  you’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things  that  you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention.  Discuss the responses as a class.