Parenting

Should under-18s be banned from babysitting?

Should under-18s be banned from babysitting?

Placing children in the care of the teenager next door or a trusted young relative has long been a preferred alternative to hiring expensive agency-provided babysitters, both by money-conscious parents and teens looking to pocket some extra cash.

But nanny agencies are calling for the NSW government to enforce a minimum age for child minders, saying teenagers are not old enough to care for themselves, let alone someone else’s children.

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Such an initiative would follow New Zealand, where minors are not allowed to be in the care of children under the age of 14.

Teens look to child-minding to relieve busy parents and start earning money before they are allowed to enter the workforce, making babysitting the most common job for 12-15 year olds in NSW.

But founder of online nanny agency careforkids.com.au, Roxanne Elliott, says parents who use young baby sitters are putting their financial interests ahead of their children’s safety.

“I think 18 and over should be the legal age,” she told The Sunday Telegraph.

“How does a 12-year-old react in an emergency? Are you prepared to put your child’s safety at risk?”

Of course, it could also be argued that childcare agencies are only pushing for age restrictions to stop them losing business to younger, cheaper babysitters.

But manager of another online agency, Megan Beasy, insists there are more practical reasons for older carers. She argues that a babysitter should be able to drive and have their licence.

“They need to be able to get a child to hospital as they can’t always rely on an ambulance,” she said.

While the NSW Commission for Children and Young People has compiled a guide for young babysitters, it says the traditional informal approach to child minding arrangements among family, close friends, and neighbours, make babysitting difficult to regulate.

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“Despite its widespread popularity and practice, babysitting generally isn’t an activity that forms part of a formal structure,” spokesperson Michelle Neathercote said.

“It is important to remember that young people mature at different ages and have different strengths.”

Your say: Should there be a minimum age for babysitters?

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