Looking for a babysitter can be tricky as there is so much to think about and consider. One of the questions which pops up often in parenting forums is ‘How old should a babysitter be?’. This type of questions usually sparks some heavy debates with many people saying that its not about a person’s age but about their maturity level. In many ways I would agree with this statement but there is the question of how mature can a teenager be?
Historically babysitting was a role assigned to young pre-teen and teenage girls as a means of preparing them for motherhood when married to a suitable male. This was often at a very young age (around 16 years). In this more modern day and age however first time mothers are getting older as they are making their own choices about careers and starting a family which suit them.
This history has therefore set a long standing stereotype of babysitting being a teenage girls job. According to legislation in the UK, there is actually no minimum age for the role of a babysitter. There is however legislation which would recommend to parents to choose their babysitters and the age of such wisely.
In the UK legislation, states that a parent is responsible for keeping a child safe and can be held legally responsible for neglect if they place their child at risk of significant harm. This is of course a very broad term and police would have to evidence that the child was placed at such risk. That said, this would cover any harm which came to a child in the care of a person found unsuitable to care for a child due to age, or ability. If a parent leaves their child in the care of a person under the age of 16 years old, the babysitter cannot be legally held responsible for any harm experienced and this would fall within the realm of neglect for which parents would be held accountable.
We understand that everyone is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach which can be taken with babysitting due to differing families needs, and availability of babysitters. That said, we would recommend that parents consider any babysitters for their children carefully, and seek to use someone who is an adult, with qualification and proven experience where possible to reduce the risks of harm. When teenagers begin their childcare careers in nurseries, they often seek out additional babysitting work. This is a great way to earn extra money however as an unexperienced staff member they wouldn’t be left to care for children alone in the nursery setting so please consider carefully if they are suitable to be solo caring for your children in a home setting with no supervision or assistance.