Hire a virtual nanny to care for your real-life kids

Like a knockoff Mary Poppins, she magically appears with a carpetbag, spectacles and a slight accent. "Relax," she intones calmly. "Nanny's here."

Nanny is the newest face of outsourced parenting. She arrives not at your doorstep but on your computer screen, as part of NannysCircle.com. The site, launched last month and originally developed for families with ADHD children, is a Web tool that turns household management into a Wii-like experience — remote access and avatar children.

"Give Nanny 20 minutes and she'll give you peace of mind," says the beginning of the site's four-minute introduction video. What follows is a presentation for a brilliant program that appears to allow you to never talk to your child again.

For just $9.95 a month!

How it works: Have a chore, message or aspirational goal for your child to accomplish? Send him a note via Nanny's parental control panel. To receive it, your child must simply go to his room, log onto Nanny's Circle on his computer, then go to his virtual room, then log on to his virtual computer, then read the note.

After finishing the task, your child checks it off on a virtual chore chart. When you log back on, you confirm the chore was completed with your own check mark, allowing your kid to amass points to decorate his or her room (the virtual one).

Old way: "Madison, did you feed the dog like I asked?"

Parenting, a messy series of weary battles that never seem to lead anywhere, becomes something that can be checked off and filed. No back talk. Just hit "send."

Nanny's Circle is built for lounging: children's rooms on the site come equipped with televisions, journals and trunks full of games. And, of course, that computer, which makes a visitor feel like he is in not Second Life but Third Life, in an online world in an online world.

"Lots of families struggle with managing their lives," says Nanny's Circle founder Gwen Freer.

Members seem to love it. Beth Dawson, an interior designer in Old Saybrook, Conn., originally subscribed to Nanny's Circle just to manage her two children's schedules. McKenzie, 8, plays soccer and has a "very full" social calendar. "Charlie is more of my intellectual," says Dawson. "He's experimenting with chess."

Charlie is 6.

Dawson has noticed a decrease in family discord in the few weeks they've been using Nanny's Circle.

"We're streamlining the parenting process," Dawson says.

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