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Babysitter Safety: What You Need to Know

Must-have information for teens who babysit.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

When you're in middle school or high school, there aren't a ton of job options. (President of the United States and CEO of a major corporation are still a few years down the road.)

Babysitting is still one of the best -- and most popular -- jobs for pre-teens and teens. For many, it's their very first job.

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You might be excited about the prospect of finally earning some money of your own, but hold on a minute.

Do you know exactly what you're getting into? Babysitting isn't as easy as it looks. There's a lot of responsibility involved in caring for someone else's kids.

Before you jump into your first babysitting job, you need to know whether you're ready. You also need to know what to expect and how to handle any emergencies that might come up.

Are You Ready to Babysit?

Most states don't have laws requiring kids to be a certain age to babysit. When you start babysitting really depends on you -- and your parents.

You might feel like you're ready to babysit your younger brothers and sisters as early as age 11. Or you might feel more comfortable waiting until you're 15 or 16. Some kids are ready in middle school, but their parents say "no way" until high school.

When you start babysitting doesn't only depend on your age. "There are many issues involved," says Sally Herrholz, executive director of Safe Sitter, a nonprofit organization that trains teens on babysitting basics. "It's really more related to the maturity of the child," she says.

"We want them to be able to make smart decisions," says Lindsay O'Donnell, CHES. She's a senior associate with the American Red Cross, which also runs a babysitting training program.

Making bad decisions when you're watching kids can get you into real trouble. One study showed that nearly half of young babysitters (ages 11-13) did things they shouldn't have -- like leaving young children alone.

It takes just a few seconds alone for a baby or toddler to get burned, fall into the pool or tub, or get seriously injured.

Your safety is also on the line. You need to think about whether you feel safe with the family you’re sitting for, what you would do if a stranger showed up at the front door, and how you’re going to get home afterward.

Along with being mature and responsible, you also need to:

  • Like kids
  • Understand kids
  • Have a lot of patience

If you have all of these traits but you don't know much about babysitting, some training can help.

Before You Babysit: What You Need to Know

Would you know what to do if you were babysitting and a stranger showed up at the front door? What would you do if the baby you were watching started to choke?

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