Virtual babysitting services take off during the coronavirus

Published: May. 27, 2020 at 2:17 PM EDT
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The kids are still home from school and most parents are working from home, too. For many families, even the daily routine can be tough. But one unexpected service is going virtual: babysitting.

Like millions of Americans, the Reilly family is stuck at home, and keeping the kids occupied is a big challenge. Erin and Brian Reilly have three children. The youngest is 7-year-old Finn.

"He's always looking for something to do, and I'm looking for something for him to do that isn't a video game or isn't a movie or, you know, a TV show," Erin Reilly said.

When she heard about Virtual Babysitters Club, she gave it a shot. Finn jumped in first to join a virtual dance party.

"That was the best hour of my life!" Finn said.

Virtual Babysitters Club was recently launched by Kyle Reilly and Kristina Hanford. Hanford is a nanny and theater performer. The business did not exist before the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S.

"When we first had the idea, we kind of wanted to be the connection between these working from home parents and performers who are out of work," Hanford said.

They've hired performers that offer one-on-one and group options. Themes range from art and music to dance, and prices start at about $18 an hour.

But the service is not a replacement for adult supervision.

"While our performers are all amazing with kids, you know, it's impossible through the screen to provide the same sort of service that an in-person babysitter would," Kyle Reilly said.

Elizabeth Harz is the CEO of Sittercity. The online child care marketplace connects parents to in-person child care. But when the pandemic hit, parents started asking for virtual babysitters.

"Some parents are looking for the virtual sitter to help with homework or remote learning," Harz said. "Others want a dance party."

The sessions are typically 45-90 minutes.

For the Reillys, one extra hour makes a world of difference. Erin Reilly says the Virtual Babysitters Club felt like "a guilt-free hour, where I felt like he was entertained. I felt like someone was interacting with him."

It's a nontraditional approach to child care during extraordinary times.

All of the in-person and virtual babysitters available through these sites go through background checks before they are available for hire.

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