It’s billed as a cashless, fast and easy childcare solution and sounds like a godsend to busy parents juggling the demands of work and home life.
But would you leave your children alone with someone you have met only hours earlier online?
New babysitting app Gobi provides sitters on demand, allowing users to punch in their postcode and get a list of potential candidates sent back to them.
Co-creator Ashleigh Carthy said it was only a matter of time before babysitting apps became the norm.
“More people are using Uber now, not because there was a lack of taxis, but because it is cheap, fast and easy,” she said.
“We are not trying to be a childcare agency, it is more for those ad-hoc babysitting needs.
“Mothers might want to go to a yoga class or just need a few hours of babysitting to go grocery shopping without a baby and toddler in tow.”
The app also has functions that allow parents to “rate” babysitters, create a favourites list and see whom their friends recommend.
Does risk outweigh convenience?
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said it was essential for parents to undertake due diligence when engaging a babysitter online.
“Sharing economy apps have made our busy lives more convenient, but we do need to consider when on-demand services are appropriate for the task at hand,” she said.
“Look for apps or websites that promote child safeguards, and find out if they have information about their recruitment and screening processes – the baseline being the Working With Children check [WWC] screening.”
Ms Inman Grant said it was also critical to have a face-to-face interview with the potential sitter, contact their referees and look at referrals from other parents, if possible.
Department of Communities spokesman Brad Jolly said a WWC check was the responsibility of the babysitter to get, not the app.
“The use of a smartphone app to book a babysitter does not alter the employer/employee relationship between a babysitter and the parent who booked him or her,” he said.
“The smartphone app is simply a mode of facilitating contact, not unlike the ‘local services’ pin-up board at a supermarket.”
‘As a parent there is a lot of control’
North Perth mum Maggie Johns has two girls aged 11 and 8 and has used the Gobi babysitting app several times.
She said it filled a gap for their family as her husband often has to work away unexpectedly, and they have no family in Perth to help.
“We had a consistent babysitter who was not always available, or would cancel on the day, and we didn’t really have any backup,” she said.
“With the app, it is fantastic to have a whole list of people that you can have a look at.
“Initially, I felt slightly uncomfortable, but I feel like you get enough information about them online that you can make a discerning choice, and I always chat to them on the phone first.
“I don’t know if it will become a norm, but for me it has made my life much easier – because it is so quick, I am not relying on one person to get back to me.
“As a parent there is a lot of control in it. I am not a big social media or IT person, I like face-to-face communication, but this works really well.”
Babysitting apps a ‘legal grey area’
Commercial litigator Roger Blow said the arrival of disruptive technology had created a grey area in terms of who was at fault if something goes wrong.
“Any business engaging in this space would have terms and conditions that would seek to limit liability if anything did go wrong,” he said.
“But the babysitter is ultimately responsible for their actions.
“I think the risk analysis that would be undertaken in assessing getting a ride-sharing driver, or a takeaway meal, is a very different one to what a parent would do to select a babysitter or child minder.
“Parenting is a very subjective and personal thing, so some parents will embrace the technology, while others won’t.”