Gone are the days when parents only had the grandparents or the teenager next door to call when date night rolled around. Today there is an entire industry built around helping parents find babysitters and other childcare professionals online, giving parents options and freedom that grandma and grandpa never had when we were kids.
Most of these websites and apps are built around making the search for childcare easier and faster. These companies offer a comprehensive package to parents, who can comb through customer reviews, referrals, and the personal profiles of childcare professionals. Most companies also perform background checks on the babysitters and nannies on their lists, meaning the due diligence isn’t just up to you.
Before you take the search online, talk to friends and family. Find parents you know, say at your kid’s daycare or in the neighborhood, and see if they have recommendations. Ask if they’ve used online services and if they have any recommendations. You can also use social media to ask for pointers.
Once you decide to take the search online, decide what you’re looking for in a childcare professional, and shop around to find the company that can best answer your needs.
What Are You Looking For?
The first step is to decide what you’re looking for. Do you just need a sitter who can watch the kids for a few hours after they’re asleep while you head out with your partner for dinner and drinks? Do you need someone who can pick up the kids from school and stay with them through bedtime? Would you like a nanny who speaks a foreign language so you can have a bilingual child? Are you looking for a full time au pair who can also cook and clean? What about a male caretaker, is that an option?
Au Pair in America has decades of experience placing full-time au pairs from overseas with families in the United States, and takes care of the paperwork involved. If you’re looking for a more temporary or last minute option, sitter.me was started by parents, looking to help parents who need to book a babysitter on the go, and don’t have time to find a long term option. With sitter.me you make a list of babysitters that you approve of, and then send out a message to all of your list and the booking is accepted on a first come first serve basis. Bubble is a free babysitting app advertised as great for your ad-hoc, short notice and regular childcare needs. It works similar to ride-share apps like Uber - you post the time and date you need a sitter and then look through recommended sitters and their rates and then select one. The app allows you to base your decision on the recommendations of friends.
Many sites offer other services in addition to childcare, if you’d like to make your purchase part of a larger deal. At Care.com, you can find not only babysitters for your children, but also a tutor if they need. It also provides adult and senior care, as well as housekeepers, if you’d like to go out to see a movie and come home to sleeping kids - and a clean house. Like Care.com, SitterCity.com also offers senior care and pet care.
The question of what you need is one that only you can answer, and that will have a big impact on where and how you search. One thing’s for certain, this is a very important decision, and should not be rushed.
When looking for a sitter:
Features that count:
Security and peace of mind are probably going to be top priorities when it comes to finding a babysitter.
Most services perform background checks and screening of their own, or contract it to a third party for the babysitters who sign up for their service. Make sure to access these services for any babysitter you’re interested in, and also check references and testimonials.
Some sites also offer confidential or secure ways for you to communicate with prospective babysitters, including by private text. With Sitter.com, the TELESAFE proprietary system allows you to communicate with other users while your identity remains safe.
Chances are you’d like to get to know your sitter somewhat before they come over to watch your child. Profiles on babysitting sites provide extensive information, but some take it a bit further.
At Urbansitter, babysitter profile videos allow you to get to know the sitter as they introduce themselves in a short 30-90 second video. You can post screening questions for prospective babysitters to answer when applying.
Many sites have a community-centered approach to childcare. At SittingAround, you can take part in a “Babysitting Co-op.” This is a community-based system where parents take turns babysitting each other’s children and instead of exchanging cash, they trade childcare for child care. Points are accrued when you perform childcare, which you can then “cash out” when someone is available and you want to go out.
It’s certainly not for everyone, and not all parents are interested in watching someone else’s kid. Still, members of babysitting co-ops can save a lot of money on childcare.
UrbanSitter also has an extensive network of neighborhood-based sitters and recommendations, so you can draw on the referrals of people in your community. At Care4Hire, there is an emphasis on “neighborhood mapping,” to help you find sitters in your community.
A helpful tool is an internal communication option that allows you to speak to potential sitters without having to call them. This would most likely be a chat or internal messaging option. Whichever it is, look for one that makes sure to safeguard your confidentiality.
Ease of Use
As a busy parent of a young child, keeping things simple is probably your motto.
You want a site that’s easy to navigate and doesn’t require any technical know-how or hours spent on the keyboard.
A simple and comprehensive search option is a real asset to help you narrow down the search and customize your results. On Sitter.com for instance, you can search sitters by a couple dozen different parameters from
On Nannies4Hire, you can find sample contracts for babysitters, in case you’re a bit unclear about how they’re done or how to make sure everything is put in writing the way it should be.
Perhaps the most important thing when it comes to ease of use is a mobile app. Of the 10 brands on this superlist, 9 have a mobile app, though one of those - Sitter.me - is only available on iOS devices.
A mobile app is not only convenient and easy-to-use, but also ensures that you can line up sitters on a moment’s notice from the office, the grocery store, or wherever you are when the need arises.
There are few decisions you can make as a parent that are as important as childcare. With today’s online options, the search for reliable, trustworthy childcare is easier than ever before, but there are still some basic guidelines to follow. Know what you’re looking for, look for references and screening, and find a site or app which has the right features for you. The idea of finding a sitter online may take some getting used to, but you’ll find that it makes parenting easier - and maybe even safer - than ever before.