— -- Keeping track of young children isn’t easy, and some people are turning to FaceTime for a virtual helping hand.
Rafi Fletcher, 40, is using the video chat app to babysit her son, Ford, who’s nearly 2 years old.
Instead of putting Ford down in front of the TV while she cleans the house or tries to get work done, about twice a week, an out-of-state relative will keep an eye on him via FaceTime.
“FaceTime helps me pretty much get those little chunks of time that I need. It usually lasts about 20 to 30 minutes, sometimes as long as an hour,” the Minneapolis woman said, explaining that her son is usually in the same room with her and in her line of sight.
Ford watches his virtual minders' expressions, she said.
"So there's you know, eyes, mouth, teeth, they're pulling at cheeks and he is mimicking them as they do that so that's always fun watching him do that," she said.
Not only is it beneficial for babysitting, but FaceTime sessions allow Ford to get to know his relatives who live far away, she said.
"He is growing up with them so it's not like when we go there for holidays and he doesn't know these people," Fletcher, who's trying to start a clothing line, said. "He knows them, now he hears the FaceTime sounds … he's learning who his relatives are, getting familiar faces so he's much more comfortable."
Still, there have been close calls.
"He was on the bed and then he was about to roll off and my sister was like ‘Hey! Hey! He's rolling, he's rolling!’ And so I quickly ran there and grabbed him before he rolled off the bed,” Fletcher said.
While many mothers call this a clever, creative solution, others are quick to criticize the practice as ridiculous.
Karen Stewart, a licensed clinical psychologist, says using FaceTime to help monitor a child is harmless – unless it goes too far.
“Do not leave the house. Grandma in Chicago cannot babysit your child in Los Angeles,” she said.
She added: “Your Face Time is not your babysitter. I think this is a great opportunity to interact with your family but it's not a real babysitter. This a babysitter for where you are in the next room - literally 10 feet away."
Fletcher says she’ll keep doing it as long as her son is happy.
"If it was something where he didn't enjoy it, he probably wouldn't stay there that long, but you hear him laughing and smiling,” she said.