What Is An Appropriate Babysitting Age?
The answer to what a proper babysitting age is really - it depends. It depends upon a number of things. The safety and well being of the child or children being looked after is of paramount importance, but so is the safety and well being of the babysitter.
There might not be anything wrong with an 11 year old girl looking after the neighbor's 3 year old for an hour or two while the mother goes shopping. If the babysitter and the child know one another well enough, there should be no problem. On the other hand, you wouldn't send that 11 year old across town to sit for one or more children while the parents are out on the town for an evening with no indication when they might be returning home. So, it depends.
Whether we're talking about girl babysitters (most babysitters are girls) or boy babysitters, the early teens is a reasonable age range. Girls are usually quite mature by the time they are 11 or 12, and certainly at age 13 they can usually undertake a babysitting task responsibly. Boys tend to mature a little later than girls, and you need to take into account that by the time they're in their mid-teens, boys seldom are interested in babysitting. Of course, looking after a neighbor's little ones for a few hours is often not a problem with older boys or girls.
Most states do not have a minimum age at which a child can babysit. A couple of states do, and a few others have considered passing such a law. The minimum age, when dictated, is usually designed to protect both the babysitter and the children being cared for. When you get down to the basics however, babysitting age is not so much the issue as maturity is. A 12 year old may be totally trustworthy and competent, while a babysitter 3 or 4 years older may be irresponsible to the point of being a danger. It helps to know the babysitter and the babysitter’s parents. In some communities, churches and social organizations will have lists of available babysitters. These children usually must have attained a certain age, and in some cases undergone screening and even attended babysitting classes. Having one of these your persons babysit your child could be a wise choice.
If you are searching for a babysitter, the age of your child or the number of children you wish to have looked after can be a factor. A 12 year old girl might do fine looking after a 3 or 4 year old, but it probably wouldn't be a good idea to entrust her with a 6 month old, or even younger child, unless you are going to be close by and easy to contact in case there's a problem. Even a very mature 12 year old doesn't know all the answers when it comes to looking after an infant or toddler. Looking after a very young child should be left to a high school student, who is at least 15 and better, 16. Older is better in such cases, but as girls get older, they tend to have many interests, and often better paying jobs, and are less willing to babysit. Still, if you are going away for the weekend, a college student might fill the bill, even with toddlers in the household.
One invention that has been a great help to both babysitters and the parents of both families involved, is the cell phone. Teens and most preteens are every bit as familiar with using a cell phone as any adult. A babysitter having a cell phone in her possession is able to instantly contact parents, police, or 911, should a serious problem arise. The cell phone should be a standard babysitting tool, as it gives all involved greater peace of mind.
In summary, there are many factors involved, with babysitting age being just one. Maturity of the baby sitter, (and the maturity of the parents involved for that matter), the age and number of children, where they live, and how long the babysitting chore is going to be, all are important. When all parties involved are comfortable with the agreed upon babysitting arrangement, everything should work out just fine.