Legal Age For Babysitting

Is There a Legal Age for Babysitting?

Have you ever wondered if there is a legal age for babysitting? This is a common question among parents who are looking for a sitter as well as teenagers looking to earn a bit of extra cash by babysitting. The truth is that the legal age for babysitting really varies depending on where you are in the world. The statute for babysitting age varies even from state to state. In many cases the government simply provides a recommended age rather than a legal minimum. The average recommended age is usually somewhere between 13 and 15, although in the state of Missouri the minimum legal babysitting age is 11.



The Sitter’s Level of Maturity

As a parent, instead of asking ourselves what age our sitter should be, we should instead consider whether the teenager is mature enough to handle the responsibilities of child care. Although we can assume a certain level of maturity accompanies a particular age, this is simply not always true. One 13 year old child may have a great understanding of responsibility and a good handle on common sense around younger children, whereas another child of the same age may act more immature. It is unrealistic to believe that an immature teenager will be able to responsibly handle the difficult situations that can arise with young children.

From a babysitter’s point of view, it is important to be realistic about their level of experience and common sense before expecting parents to entrust their child to them. A great sign of maturity would be the ability to provide references from families whom they have babysat for, or a certificate gained from a first aid/CPR or babysitting course.

The Number of Children Being Watched and Duration of Care

Even the most mature teenager has their limitations. The number of children that a babysitter is expected to care for is definitely something to consider. In fact, even professional day care centers have to obey laws regarding caregiver to child ratios. For example, it is unrealistic to think that a 13 year old would have no difficulty caring for five children between the ages of 2 and 9, regardless of how mature the sitter is. Many governments provide guidelines suggesting the number of children one sitter should take on. Another consideration is how long the caregiver will be babysitting and what time of day or night they work. Many areas not only have laws regarding curfew, there are also laws regarding how many hours a minor is allowed to work in one week. This varies greatly from area to area. There are also laws regarding how late a minor is able to work, for instance in the state of Arkansas a teen under the age of 16 cannot “work” more than 48 hours in one week and cannot work between the hours of 7pm to 6am on school nights.

The Age of the Children Being Watched

The age of the children that must be watched is an important consideration. Many areas recommend that infants and toddlers not be entrusted into the care of a teen younger than the age of 16 or 17. This is largely due to the fact that children of this age require constant supervision and nearly constant care. Older children are able to entertain themselves and obey instructions to an extent, although their whereabouts and actions should always be monitored.

Just remember that the question is not what the legal age for babysitting is, but rather the sitter is mature, trustworthy, responsible, and capable of handling the task.