Kids minding kids is never a good idea. It doesn’t make sense to put a child in charge of a child so that should be your basic guideline for the age of the babysitter that you select.
There are laws that govern the minimum age for babysitters. For instance, in New Hampshire, babysitter age guidelines were set in a Bill that took effect on January 1, 2007. It states that ‘It is acceptable for children ages 11 to 14 to baby-sit, with the expectation that the parent, guardian, or caretaker will be returning to supervise the children later that same day.’ It also states: ‘It is acceptable for children ages 15 and older to baby-sit for more than 24 hours.’
Whether these guidelines are appropriate in your opinion is up to you, but frankly, entrusting an eleven-year-old with the awesome responsibility of taking care of younger children borders on silliness. However, it’s true that some thirteen year olds are quite capable and mature, while their eighteen-year-old peers may be totally untrustworthy. It’s vital that you use your own best judgment.
You should also take into consideration the potential babysitter’s background and how well he or she has been raised to deal with possible incidents.
– Are they capable of calling 911 in an emergency, without panicking?
– Would they know what to do in the event of an accident?
– Do they know where (or what) the fusebox is?
– Are they aware of how to turn off the gas or water if necessary?
Also keep in mind that kids should be allowed to enjoy their childhood, and that sometimes, responsibility is a fleeting thing. A teenager may turn up with all good intentions of doing everything by the book, then receive a call on her cell phone and sit chatting for two hours to her boyfriend while shushing your children in the background. This is totally reasonable behavior for a teenager but not at all acceptable while caring for your youngsters.
With little life experience, how can you expect a younger person to be an effective babysitter? It’s a lot to demand of someone who not long ago was a child herself. Just be sure that whomever you choose has a maturity beyond her years, comes from a family of whose background you can be confident, and who has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that she can be trusted.
Age is an important factor in the choice of a babysitter. Too old and infirm is just as worrisome as too young and immature. Ultimately, your instincts are an excellent guide. Perhaps you could invite the prospective babysitter to hang out with you and your family once or twice before endowing her with the task of looking after your children.