Parents: what (minimum) age would you let your babysitter be?

My son is 12, almost 13. He has 3 younger siblings. He wants to take a babysitting course and then put out fliers around the neighborhood advertising himself as a babysitter.

So my question to parents of young children. What is the minimum age you would hire as a babysitter? Would you be more hesitant if it’s a boy?

I have two boys, 4 and almost 7. My minimum requirement is 18, with first aid training, but they’ve never actually been left with someone even that young. I would be very uncomfortable leaving them with a thirteen year old, boy or girl. Among my friends and people I know, I tend to be on the pickier side of this issue. I babysat at 13/14 and, looking back, I can’t believe people left their children in my care. I was a warm body in the house and friendly with the kids, but there is no way, at that age, I had the judgment that would be required in a real emergency.

Depends on the kid and the age of my kids. I’m not sure I’d leave young kids with a 13 year old, but older kids, yeah.

We’ve had one paid babysitter - who was 16 - in my kid’s entire childhood (and now they stay home alone). Babysitters are too expensive.

ETA: He should consider billing himself as a babysitter/mother’s helper. There are parents who want someone to play with their kids while they get stuff done, or sit in the tub with a book…That will establish trust and sensibility. My daughter is “going on eleven” and we are introducing the idea of being a mother’s helper to her.

Dangerosa, your mother’s helper idea is fantastic. We went to a Superbowl party once where the hosts hired a couple teenagers to entertain the kids upstairs while the adults watched the game. It worked out beautifully.

Thats all they wanted you for or expected of you. Warm body in the house to make sure the kids didn’t kill themselves in any obvious ways, and to call someone who actually had judgement if the kids tried one of the more non obvious ways to kill themselves. Real emergencies are rare.
I’d probably not go younger than 16 or so if it was a baby, but for 3+, 12 or 13 year olds should do fine for a night. Oh, and it being a boy would raise my eyebrows a bit, but only because I’ve been a 13 year old boy and I’d suspect the first thing he would do after I was gone would be to root through everything. Probably looking for porn, the little scamp.

Not that I ever did anything of the sort… >_>

I’ve had 12-13 yo babysitters, but on the whole a mother’s helper position is a great place to start. Summer is a great time to get a job like that–take the kids out to play or do art projects while mom gets stuff done, that sort of thing.

My first job was as a summer babysitter when I was 10 (1980). I took a babysitters and first aid course at 12 and then I was the neighbourhood babysitter till I was 18 or so. I don’t have any kids but I’d let someone your sons age do some daytime babysitting if the kids were older than toddlers. I had a couple emergencies during those years and I called 911 each time.

One thing with younger sitters is they like to actually play with the kids and the kids love them. Just expect that the house might be a bit of a mess after! I had to explain to a couple moms that yes, the house is a bit messy but the kids had a blast and there was never any crying when mom and dad left for the evening. Once I was 13 or 14 I started making sure things were a bit tidier.

I agree. Mostly you need someone to recognize what an emergency IS and who to contact for help. The difference between a little cut that needs a bandaid and a big cut that will need stitches.

I don’t have a current first aid certification, so I wouldn’t really expect a babysitter to.

I’ve got no kids but that is just the awesomest idea ever.

Here in NJ it is technically illegal to leave anyone under 14 in charge. The babysitter police don’t come around and check, but if something went wrong the adult who made that arrangement would be considered to have endangered the children.

Under 5, I would want the babysitter to be in high school, between 5 and 10? 13 year old boy would be fine if I knew the family.

I started as being a “mother’s helper” when I was 10 or so and babysitting on my own when I was 12. I watched a family of 4 kids (one a baby and one a toddler) for about 3-4 hours at 14. It was never a problem. The worst thing that happened was when the Carbon Monoxide detector went off. I got the kids outside and called the parents.

Another thing was, since it was in my neighborhood, my parents were just up the street. Had there been anything beyond my ability to handle, I certainly could have called them and they would have been there in minutes.

I never got any specific certification, but I think it is a good idea for your son. It will make his responsibility seem more important, I think.

We’ve gone as young as 13, if the sitter had references and younger siblings at home. I can’t say I was terribly comfortable with it, though.

One of the big problems we ran into in screening sitters was that once they hit 16 and had a driver’s license, they either lost interest in sitting or got a “real” job and continued to sit only for long-time clients.

It never bothered us whether the sitter was a boy or girl.

I think it helps him that he has 3 younger siblings and is used to small kids.

Your son wants to babysit? They let boys do that now? (seriously, I just can’t imagine anyone trusting young men to babysit children)

My daughter is seven and her oldest cousin, who is twelve and a boy is a great babysitter. He took the course and takes the whole thing very seriously.

If she was a toddler or an infant, I would have someone older.

I wouldn’t allow my son to babysit at all. I would worry about something happening or him being accused of something. I’m a bit paranoid, but I wouldn’t let him babysit, nor would I have ever hired a boy to watch my kids.

I already gave my opinion on the age thing, but as far as gender of the babysitter - my boys looooove having male babysitters. A couple years ago, my youngest was in the hospital and I had to be there with him while my husband had to be at work. We needed a sitter for the entire day for my oldest and a friend’s son, who is a cyclist and had been overseas training, was home for a few weeks and looking for an opportunity to make a little extra cash. He was great - he kept my son running all day long, playing soccer, setting up obstacle courses, etc. We’ve also had one of they guys my husband works with babysit and my boys love having him over, too.

What is the deal with not trusting boys to babysit?

Well, the possibility of molestation, obviously. Men can’t keep it in their pants, and neither can boys. :rolleyes:

That said, I think it’s probably more of a nurturing issue, which gets as much of a rolleyes from me as the other. My 12-year-old son is actually more nurturing and willing to play with my 5-year-old son than my daughter is, and she’s older. Also the 5-year-old (boy) is very loving and protective of his baby cousins.

But back to the first issue, I don’t blame people from being wary. A former family member was molested by a boy babysitter when she was a preteen, so I’ve heard of it firsthand. If you know the family, like someone mentioned upthread, you get a better idea of how the boy’s family dynamics.

To answer the question, I never let anyone sit for me younger than high school after I returned home to a house with all the lights on, all the windows open and doors standing open and the kids upstairs watching TV with the doors closed. Anyone could have walked in my house. I dont’ think she would have known to shut things down if it started raining, for example. With that lack of experience, I didn’t want to trust her with my kids again.