Are Tweens Really Ready to Babysit?

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tween babysitting picture

Even if they have training, are tweens really ready to watch your baby? Credit: Getty Images

Thrilled that your neighbor's kid is finally old enough to babysit? Sorry to throw a monkey wrench into date night, but your tween babysitter actually may be putting your little one at risk.

Forty percent of younger babysitters report they had left children unattended while babysitting, and 20 percent say they opened the door to strangers, according to research presented this weekend at the American Academy of Pediatrics conference.

The good news? Nearly all (98 percent) of 11- to 13-year-old babysitters know who to contact in the event of an intruder or if a child is sick or injured (96 percent), and the vast majority know who to contact if a child is poisoned (85 percent).

Researchers surveyed 727 tweens who have cared for a younger infant or child as a babysitter, reporting their results in the study, "Babysitter Safety Training: Are Children Aged 11-13 Years Prepared to Deal with Emergencies While Caring for Younger Children?"

About half of the tweens interviewed had gone through some professional training: 51 percent had taken a first aid training class; 47 percent had taken a CPR class and 19 percent had taken the American Red Cross or other babysitter preparedness class, the researchers report.

In other findings, 92 percent of preteen babysitters were familiar with the location of first aid supplies and 64 percent knew where to find a fire extinguisher. Ten percent of the young babysitters reported having a personal experience with an emergency requiring a call to 911; 10 called 911 after a child sustained injuries from a significant fall, eight due to a house fire, six because a child had profuse bleeding from a laceration and six because of a significant head trauma.

The study provides a snapshot of preteen babysitter strengths and weaknesses, lead study author Dr. Nicole M. Hackman, of Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, reported at the conference.

"By identifying the unsafe behaviors, we have the opportunity to design specific educational programs to prepare preteen babysitters to safely respond to common emergency situations," she says.

For more information on babysitting preparedness, visit the American Red Cross website.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.