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Should Pre-Teens Babysit?

Are pre-teens old enough to babysit?

Would you trust this girl with your child?

As the parent of a pre-teen, it is hard for me to imagine that she might be old enough to start babysitting.  Well, at 10-years-old, she’s not.  But what about next year?   Or when she’s 12?

According to a new study, properly trained tweens can actually be pretty good at dealing with the types of emergencies that sometimes arise when babysitting.  But at other times, they can show a frightening lack of judgment. 

In the study, presented at the recent American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in San Francisco, researchers examined the babysitting skills of over 700 pre-teens ages 11 through 13.  Of these kids, more than half had taken a first-aid training class, 47 percent had taken cardio-pulmonary resuscitation training and 19 percent had completed the American Red Cross Safe Sitter or other babysitter class.

The good news is that nearly all of the pre-teen babysitters knew who to contact in the event of an intruder (98%) or if a child was injured (96%) or poisoned (85%).

The bad news is that 40% of them admitted that they had left children unattended while babysitting and 20% said they had opened the door to strangers.

What this says to me is that the average pre-teen is highly trainable and can be counted on to act appropriately in case of an emergency.  It also reveals that pre-teens lack the maturity to exercise good judgment when the choices aren’t so clear cut.  Knowing what to do when your little charge gets hurt is good.  But leaving your charge alone and opening the door to strangers is not.

Bottom line:  My own kid won’t be babysitting until she’s at least thirteen or fourteen.  And if I ever decide to get a life and go out, I will find a babysitter with some years on her.

What about you?  Would you let a pre-teen babysit your kids?

Image: SharonaGott/Flickr

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