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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.

CoMMember13631154642254 CoMMember13631154642254 6 years
I see nothing wrong with a 14 yr old babysitting... I believe thats how old I was when I babysat my nieces and nephews. as long as the parent makes sure all the contact numbers are easily found and the teen knows how to dial 911 and knows HOW to babysit then they need to leave this Mum alone... Overstepping across the pond too hu?
LindsayJ74027 LindsayJ74027 6 years
there is also a HUGE difference between some half random 14 year old, and the 14 year old older sibling.... i was probably no older then 11 when i watched my sister..
JaclynWeidenbach JaclynWeidenbach 6 years
Yes! I leave my daughter with a girl in my neighborhood who is 13. Her mom makes sure that she is home in case her daughter needs her and I never leave them longer than an hour or two at most. I use her for doctor's appointments, etc....
LynnZielinski LynnZielinski 6 years
My daughter is 12 and will be 13 in Oct. She has taken a babysitter course and has her certificate in babysitting.
KristiBrazile KristiBrazile 6 years
Our now 14 year old neighbor has been watching our now 3 year old son, since she was 11. We now also have a 9 month old daughter, and she watches both of them. I do realize her parents are right next door if she needs anything, but she is the most responsible 14 year old I know, even when she was 11. She is the only person, besides my parents, I will leave my children with! I think it just depends on the person, not necessarily the age.
wolfcat87 wolfcat87 6 years
I started babysitting my little brother by the time I was 8 and my brother was 4-5. We never got into trouble. It's all about how well behaved your kids are.
SamanthaAllen15197 SamanthaAllen15197 6 years
i was 11 years old when my dad used 2 leave me to babysit my 7 brother's and sisters on my own, and there all younger than me, it made me grow up but was alot of hard work, but surly a 14 year old would be able to cope with it if an 11 year old can x
KristenColeman99099 KristenColeman99099 6 years
I started babysitting when I was 11. My 12 year old babysits his 2 sisters- 6 and 7. It is about maturity- varies from kid to kid, just use common sence-
sarahpaine1872 sarahpaine1872 6 years
I would trust my 12 year old daughter to watch over any younger child but her own sibling. (Years of pent up pokeiness!) I told her that as soon as she took a Red Cross class I would let her babysit. I'm lucky (or stuck) to be at home most of the time, so I do have that to fall back on, but 14?? I can't imagine what the Brits were thinking citing her for that. I was even babysitting at 14 and I was REALLY immature!! Why were the police even involved? Does anyone know?
JoanneChapman JoanneChapman 6 years
I leave my 15 year old with her brother and sisters, They are 10, 7 and 4. I have been doing this happily for around a year. She is a very sensible girl and I have no worries that she knows how to deal with anything that can come up. I do have certain rules though - no boyfriend round while she is babysitting. I know that her attention is taken by him too much, so she wouldn't be thinking straight! Also, if I can, I make sure the youngest ones are in bed asleep before I go out. It makes life easier for the eldest one. It does completely depend on maturity levels. You cannot really put an age limit on that.
OhJessie OhJessie 6 years
I was babysitting at 13; these new "laws" and restrictions are ludicrous. Remember walking to the pizza parlor alone when you were ten, or taking off on your bike or sled? Madness.
TiffanyNeely TiffanyNeely 6 years
I was left alone and was left to babysit at the age of 9. now i'm not saying that all 9 year olds could do this or even should. for that matter i know some 26 year olds i would not leave their own kids with. bottom line is you as the parent should be able to "know" when YOUR kids are ready.
LauraBettyMcFadden LauraBettyMcFadden 6 years
I think it is alrght to leave a 14 year old to babysit ,as long as she has taken a babysitting course and is responsable
RachaelJustin RachaelJustin 6 years
I have been babysitting since 12 (i am 25 now) i think it depends on if the teen is responsible enough to watch a child...i think that you only have to be 12 to watch a sibling for a certain period of the my answer is if the teen is responsible no they are not too young....if they cant even take care of themselves yes they are! however i am a mom of 4 and would never let someone under 18 watch my kids unless it was a sibling and not for that long...i am way to paranoid
SandraGrise SandraGrise 6 years
you can take the babysitting course at 11! By the time they are 14-15 they want to to be with their friends more than babysti!!
SueMurawicki SueMurawicki 6 years
It all depends on the 14 year old, some I would leave and some I wouldn't, but the parent knows their child better than anyone, I would leave my 2 granddaughters to look after a young child, and have no worries because if they were worried about anything they would ring us, I think the police can go overboard some times, but having said that I don't know this 14 year old.
KerryReid19088 KerryReid19088 6 years
I did it every weekend at 14 for a baby and 2 kids. Someone put in a complaint once and a social worker sat with me once till their mum got home. Nothing was ever done as I proved I was more than capable. I had been 1st aid qualified since age 13. Everyone is different
CristalLewis CristalLewis 6 years
I started babysitting when I was eleven and that was for a three month old everyday after school but everyone said I acted alot older than my true age. My husband and I have two children which our daughter is 15 & our son is 11 and she has been watching him since she was 11 she is alot like I was. And now I am pregnant with fraternal twins and I will trust her to start watching them when they get to be about 3 or 4 months old but not for more than an hour or 2 and I would be in the same town. I think the 14 year old was plenty old enough she knew her child and whether or not he was capable the police had no idea whether he was or not so the police were wrong in my opinion.
MistyCrow30311 MistyCrow30311 6 years
I have 5 kids and I do have to leave on of the older three, ages 11-14, in charge from time to time. I absolutely believe it depends on the individual child, situation, and how well they have been taught to handle the responsibility. My question is how did police find out this mom left her kids at home?
ChristyArthur13849 ChristyArthur13849 6 years
My 12 year old is great at short periods (less than 30 minutes) My 14 year old could go hours if needed. It really does depend on the child, the willingness of the kids being sat, and structured activites, snacks prepared and rules agreed upon prior! Sad but true, we have kids that are parents before 16, maybe if more babysat they would be less eager to grow up so fast.
MarianneBerning MarianneBerning 6 years
I have found that after age 14 it's hard to get sitters because they start having "a life". I think most are responsible enough at this age and even a bit younger for babysitting.
ErinCopley ErinCopley 6 years
A couple of people have touched on the main issue for me- if we're going to require that everyone follow a standard minimum age for babysitting, then we have to make that possible for families by providing living wage jobs (so we can pay for the daycare), healthcare (so we aren't afraid to take a sick kid to the doctor and they're less likely to be left home alone) and security in our neighborhoods (fighting a war - excuse me - several wars in foreign countries does nothing to ensure that criminals in our own neighborhoods have adequate supervision). If we could provide this kind of security, then we could require that everyone follow a standard in regards to childcare.
JaneIyer JaneIyer 6 years
As a Brit living in the USA, I continue to be amazed that there are different laws for each State..but what amazes me even more abt this article is that the British police p- who usually exercise common sense and judgement - could have got this so wrong. Of course a 14 year old is old enough to look after a younger sibling for a short period. Incidentally I started babysitting at about age 12 (late 60s) which in retrospect was too young. But 14 - absolutely fine. I like the NZ approach - a clear legal age limit for the entire country, clear and explicable to all.
KrissyPittner KrissyPittner 6 years
My daughter took a American Red Cross course as a certified babysitter at the age of 12. It depends on the child, their maturity, and the age of the child they are looking after.Some babysitters are more responsible when they are watching someone else's child as opposed to a sibling. Use your best judgement.
LoriUsher LoriUsher 6 years
They overstepped! I started babysitting when I was 12. It does depend on the maturity level of the child though.
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