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Babysitting Age Depends On Circumstances

Media Release 31/5/01

The fact that a teenager is aged 14 or over does not automatically entitle them to be able to legally babysit younger children, says Child, Youth and Family.

The department’s chief legal advisor Stewart Bartlett says recent concern over the age at which teenagers can babysit has highlighted the fact that the law is not black and white on the issue.

“Fourteen is, generally speaking, the minimum legal age at which children can be left unsupervised for any significant length of time. This fact has led to a general belief that 14-year-olds are therefore automatically entitled legally to babysit younger children.

“However, by law, adults leaving younger children in the care of 14-year-olds or older teenagers have to have regard to all the circumstances. It would be legally inappropriate, for example, to leave a young, inexperienced teenager in charge of 10 toddlers. The courts have been clear that teenagers shouldn’t be given responsibilities beyond their years. If they are, adults leaving young children in a teenager’s care can be prosecuted.

“So the correct legal position is that 14 is the minimum age at which a teenager can babysit, but they have to be competent to do so having regard to all the circumstances and they should not given responsibilities beyond their abilities.

“The law demands that parents make sensible and safe choices for their children when making babysitting arrangements. Adults simply have to make sure that whoever is babysitting their children can reasonably be expected to keep them safe and properly supervised.”

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