How's my babysitting?
HowsMyNanny.com lets bystanders report bad behavior by your kid's caregiver.
I just got this tip from my wife, who got it from a local mothers' group e-mail list: HowsMyNanny.com is a service for the worried parent. Once subscribed (New York only, so far), you get a license plate-like plaque you zip-tie to your kid's stroller. When the help takes the kid out, the plaque serves as a beacon to passers-by: if they see your child's caregiver acting inappropriately (or exemplary), they are encouraged to log on to the HowsMyNanny site when they get to a computer, and report the incident.
It's the "How's my driving" bumpersticker for parents too skittish to trust their babysitters, and while there's a grain of a good idea in it, it's flawed in practice.
First, there's no telephone number to call. The service relies on observers to "make a mental note" of the unique number on the plate and its Web address, and then later, if they remember, to log in to the site and enter the number, the details, etc. By then, a clear memory of the incident is likely to have evaporated, if the observer even remembers to access the site at all.
Second, the plates are attached to strollers, not kids. If your child is in a group with others at a playground, how is an onlooker to know which kid goes with which stroller?
There is a school of thought in parenting that says if you feel the need to rely on monitoring devices for your babysitter, you should trust your gut and get someone new to look after your child. I lean toward agreeing with that, although I still like the idea of having a way for people to help watch out for kids, and it's also worth noting that HowsMyNanny tipsters can choose to remain anonymous, which might help. In other words, there's nothing wrong with idea of HowsMyNanny, but the practicalities of the service need a bit of tuning for it to reliably work.