By Andrew S. Delfino of Almost Coherent Parent
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire released the findings of a new study that proves what parents long suspected: Netflix is a more effective babysitter than a human teenager.
Dr. Samovar Cheyevsky, a professor of family science, was the primary researcher of this landmark study that examined the level of babysitter-child interaction in several different situations. Professor Cheyevsky and his group of researchers discovered that simply turning on Netflix for the kids to watch while parents went out was just as interactive as a teen babysitter.
“Whether it is on a tablet, laptop, or through a Roku or Chromecast,” Cheyevsky explained, “Netflix does just as good a job watching children as a semi-developed, teenage human being. Essentially, a strong Wi-Fi signal and a cellphone is a good enough babysitter for anyone over the age of four.”
The study began as an investigation into the most effective babysitting techniques currently used by parents. For almost two years, researchers followed over 100 families in each of the five cities around America. Each time a non-family member came to babysit, Cheyevsky and his team would monitor the babysitter’s interaction with the children. The children ranged in age from newborns to 12-year-olds. The babysitters ranged in age from 13 years at the youngest to 74 at the oldest. Even with such an age range, the mean age turned out to be only 19.3 years of age.
“High school students dominate the ranks of babysitters in America today,” said noted parenting expert Thomas LeMaster, “Even in college towns like Berkeley, CA or Cambridge, MA. So it did not surprise us at all to observe so many teenagers in action as sitters.”
The researchers discovered that most babysitting experiences followed the same pattern. Initially, the babysitter, regardless of age or gender, would interact with the children intensely for an average of 24.8 minutes. After that, more often than not, Netflix would be turned on for the remainder of the babysitter’s time with the children.
The only interruptions would be for meals, most often frozen pizza (16.3% of the time) or mac-and-cheese (73.2%). After that, babysitters would send kids out to play in the yard for an average of 16.9 minutes before Netflix was turned on yet again and the children were ignored until the next meal or the parents’ return.
In 98.8% of the babysitter visits, no emergencies occurred. 99.7% of the time, the only phone interaction with parental units were initiated by the parents themselves.
“Our findings prove that most of the time, a babysitter is just there to change diapers or be there in case of emergencies. Since emergencies are exceedingly rare, for any potty-trained children, Netflix and a cellphone are adequate babysitters when compared to the average American teenager.”
Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. The older the babysitter, the better they were at interacting with children for longer. But those babysitters are rarer and are often much more expensive than the neighborhood teenager who charges less than minimum wage in exchange for sneaking booze out of the liquor cabinet after putting the kids to bed.
This study is not without its critics, however. Another babysitting expert at Yale University thinks Cheyevsky’s study was flawed from the outset.
“This study ignores the effective babysitting abilities of YouTube, Amazon Prime, or a Nintendo Wii,” points out Professor Michael Van der Waal. “I have found in my own research that these options are just as effective, if not more so, as Netflix.”
Parents, though, should think twice before rushing out and investing in a more powerful router, warns Cheyevsky.
“Even though this study proves that together Netflix and a cellphone can adequately care for older children, nothing can replace the power of an experienced babysitter to find the remote control that the children will inevitably lose.”
About the Author
Andrew S. Delfino is a stay-at-home dad of four and a teacher. He’s not afraid to be called a feminist, but does hate being called the babysitter, though. He blogs at Almost Coherent Parent and is also on Facebook and Twitter.