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Too Young to Babysit?

Too Young to Babysit?

A British mom or "mum" as the English like to say, was given the American equivalent of a citation in early February for leaving her three-year-old in the care of her 14-year-old son for a half hour while she went grocery shopping.

The incident has sparked debate on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as to what the appropriate minimum age is for babysitters. Plenty of Circle of Moms members weighed in on this issue after Sara D. began a thread discussing it in the Parenting Debates and Hot Topics community.

Here are some of their thoughts:

"It depends on the child, but I wouldn't leave a child under the age of 14 looking after anyone other than themselves because it isn't fair to put that kind of responsibility on them." - Toni M.

"This is ridiculous. I started babysitting when I was 11." - Brittanie L.

"I would not leave my child with a 14-year-old sitter, but that is mainly because I don't know any 14-year-olds well enough to trust that they act properly in an emergency." - Kelly

As Katherine C. shares in her post on the Debating Mums! community, the British mom's situation highlights a parenting milestone many a mother is glad to reach, even if it it could tempt her into a life of crime:

"There comes a time in every mother of two or more's life when she heaves a huge sigh of relief. The older one has finally reached an age where he or she can hold down the fort while you run into the grocery store. No more paying babysitters," she posts. Legally speaking, however, it's not quite that simple, and this is especially true across the pond in the United Kingdom, where the unidentified "mum" at the heart of this debate found herself vilified.

Current British law has no minimum age requirement below which a child cannot be left home alone or left as the one in charge of other children. However, a child's welfare activist group, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, has made recommendations that police there are now quoting. The society recommends that no one under the age of 16 be left alone to look after young children. The group further states that children under 14 years of age not be left home alone.

Despite a lack of a legal standards, police cautioned the "mum" that she had committed an act of cruelty. A "caution" in the United Kingdom is like a police citation here. It becomes part of your legal record.

In the United States, the minimum age at which children can be left alone varies from state to state.

According to Latchkey, several states have non-legal guidelines allowing children to remain home alone at age 8. These states include Georgia, Maryland, and both Carolinas. 29 states have no laws or guidelines regarding at what age a child can remain home alone legally. Five states, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Wisconsin and Wyoming, recommend age 12. Illinois is the only state to set an enforceable minimum age limit for a child to remain at home unsupervised. It's 14.

And another well-regarded authority on safety, the American Red Cross, offers babysitting courses for children ages 11-15, suggesting an even lower minimum age.

With such variation in guidelines, deciding if a child can be left unattended or if a teen is capable of babysitting is clearly not straightforward.

"I think some teenagers are ready and others are not," writes Johnny, a member of the Parenting Debates and Hot Topics community. "I was babysitting by age 12."

Would you leave your kids in the care of an older child or teenage babysitter? Is there a minimum age at which this feels ok to you?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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