JAPAN - The recent case involving the death of a 2-year-old boy entrusted to a man from Fujimi, Saitama Prefecture, through an intermediary website where parents can find babysitters has highlighted the risks of using such online services, according to observers.
Access to Internet-based babysitting brokering services has made it easier for parents to find babysitters quickly and employ them at low cost. However, there are inevitable concerns over whether such babysitters can be trusted to care for young children.
A 26-year-old man was recently arrested for allegedly abandoning the body of the infant. The baby's mother had entrusted her son to the man's care through an online babysitting service site called Sitters Net.
"I launched the service, thinking that mothers who are too busy to go to, for example, a hair salon might use it to have someone take care of their children for a few hours," said Yoshiyuki Yasuda, chairman of Tokyo-based software development company 1stBit Co.
Yoshiyuki established the service in 2008 after he experienced firsthand the busy schedule of a job combined with child-rearing.
"The service was a pioneer in a field that had less than 10 peers nationwide," said an official of another operator in the industry. Sitters Net soon gained popularity, with the fast-growing number of registered users at 10,000 and babysitters at 15,000.
The suspect, Yuji Motte, used various names to register with the service. After a 22-year-old mother of the boy, a Yokohama resident, agreed to leave the boy and his younger brother in Motte's care for three days without knowing his real identity, he sent another babysitter to receive the children. Motte apparently avoided direct contact with the mother because there had been complaints over his handling of her children in the past, according to the Kanagawa prefectural police.
The service left the management of complaints to users and babysitters. The website of Sitters Net was unavailable after the incident.
After the boy died, a number of people voiced criticism over the practice of parents leaving children in the hands of a strangers "as if they were casually using an online dating service," as the head of a babysitting service company in Kanagawa Prefecture said.
However, for a 30-year-old Tokyo woman who divorced three years ago and is raising two sons-a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old-with her own parents living far away in the Kansai region, online babysitter brokering services are a lifeline as they allow her to find a sitter quickly.