With schools and childcare facilities closed, thousands of working parents have been struggling to entertain and homeschool their children.

One babysitting agency has adapted to Covid-19 restrictions taking its services online offering parents a virtual sitter.

Claire Afolabi launched a babysitting service in November 2019 and decided to adapt the agency when restrictions were introductions.

"Once the restrictions hit, we were left with a team of over 100 babysitters who all work in childcare and didn't have much to do", she said.

Ms Afolabi said she was inspired by a newspaper article on how companies were adapting to Covid-19.

She said when she told her team her plan to go online, it "sounded off the wall ... but they were all very excited".

Babysittingonline offers to play or do educational activities with children, either one-on-one or in small groups, while parents catch up on work or take a break while remaining in the house.

Ms Afolabi said all the babysitters have been garda vetted and sessions do not last longer than an hour.

Professor Nóirín Hayes of Trinity College Dublin, a psychologist specialising in early childhood education, said it is not surprising that virtual babysitting is becoming popular.

She said it does have a role to play in helping parents working from home but said some precautions must be taken.

Professor Hayes said: "We don't know what kind of impact it would have on children if it became a long-term mechanism."

She also said she would have reservations about very young children being babysat virtually, saying they would not have the attention span.

"The quality of the babysitter is going to be very important and they are going to have to be fairly innovative in how they keep children's attention."

Triona Gunning, a mother of two, has used the service to entertain her daughter Caoimhe, who is three-and-a-half.

She said she was a little concerned beforehand that Caoimhe would not interact with a person she did not know through a screen but her fears were in vain.

Caoimhe was fully engaged with her virtual babysitter for an hour and Triona took the opportunity to take a break.