How Old Should a Babysitter Be?

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How Old Should a Babysitter Be?
Photo by Alexandr Podvalny from Pexels

Back in the day, older siblings babysitting younger siblings was a rite of passage. Also, there was a thing called “latch-key” kids. Not to mention, most teenagers’ first job was being a babysitter.

Child care back then and now isn’t cheap. Bringing children into the world is a beautiful thing. However, caring for them after they’re born is another thing.

Finances are a factor in living whether you’re alone or have a family. If money is not an issue in your life and you’re a parent, kudos to you. However, if money is an issue and you’re a parent, child care most likely eats up a chunk of your expenses. It’s most expensive when they’re under school-age.

The Costs of Child Care

Let’s say you’re a single parent of a three-year-old making $13.00 an hour and don’t receive child support.  Plus, you don’t have a friend or family member to watch your child while you work. You’re working full-time hours and have to pay for child care. Before taxes, you make $520 per week and after taxes is $416. Out of that, you have to pay $150 per week for child care. That leaves you with $266 for the week and a total of $1,064 for the month. You still have to pay for your rent, food, utilities, clothing, and laundry. Getting a second job will require you to pay for additional child care. Also, your income excludes you from receiving public assistance. How do you survive on that pay?

Now imagine being a single parent with multiple children and you work two jobs. All of your children are school age. You let your 14 year old babysit your younger children after school and while you work your second job. Does that sound like an ideal situation? Those that grew up in situations such as this don’t see an issue with it. However, other people may disagree and may say that you’re being negligent.

What if one of your younger children left the house while being under the supervision of your oldest child? Luckily, the child went over to a neighbor’s house to play and was unharmed. But, the neighbor called 911. Would you rethink your decision to use your oldest child as a babysitter?

Babysitter Nightmare

In 2020, a single mother in Georgia was arrested and charged with reckless conduct for allowing her 14-year-old daughter to babysit her 4-year-old son who wandered outside the house to a neighbor’s house. Now, almost two years later, she faces up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

According to the Georgia Department of Human Services, the state of Georgia doesn’t have a law regarding the supervision of children. However, they have guidelines that children thirteen years and older with an adequate level of maturity may perform the role of a babysitter.

I don’t think the mother should’ve been arrested due to the nonexistence of law regarding the supervision of children and the daughter being over thirteen years old. Plus, there are many instances of children wandering off under responsible adult supervision.

It’s reported that the child was seen outside alone in 2019 when the daughter was 13. What did the neighbor do in that situation? Despite that, I still don’t think the neighbor shouldn’t have called the police. If the child was wandering around unattended on a regular basis, then I’d say that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. However, this was a second time and the neighbor should’ve addressed her concern with the mother before getting the authorities involved. Hopefully, the charges will be dropped against the mother.

So, How Old Should a Babysitter Be?

To protect yourself legally, check your state laws to see if there is a law regarding the supervision of children. If there’s not, check with your state’s Department of Human Services or similar agency for guidelines. As long as you’re abiding by the law, then there shouldn’t be anything wrong with an older responsible child taking care of a younger sibling. Some teenagers are more responsible than some adults. Mishaps can happen no matter the age of the responsible party.