A young couple chats with their nanny. Babysitting safety should be your priority when choosing a sitter and preparing them to care for your kids.

Having a babysitter watch your child is not always a luxury, but oftentimes a necessity. Parents have to work, and also need time to relax and reconnect with each other. Before having a babysitter come over for the first time, it’s important to know the best ways to keep your child safe when they are in another person’s hands. This babysitter safety guide will cover everything from how to choose the right babysitter, to what information to leave, and how to set your babysitter up for success.

Risks and benefits to hiring a babysitter

Before hiring a babysitter, it’s essential that you consider the risks and benefits of having someone else watch your kids. I say this not to scare anyone, but to make sure you are informed. By understanding the risks, you can better mitigate them, and create the safest situation possible for your children.

Benefits of Hiring a Babysitter

Ability to Work: For working parents, hiring a babysitter can be a necessity. It allows you to focus on your job without worrying about your child’s safety or well-being. During the covid years, many parents discovered the difficulty of working from home and watching children. Quality childcare is essential for working parents.

Time for Self-Care: One of the main benefits of hiring a babysitter is that it gives you the time you need to take care of yourself. Whether it’s going to the gym, running errands, or simply having a date night with your partner, having a reliable babysitter can provide you with much-needed time to recharge. Making self-care a priority is a great way to prevent parent burnout.

Opportunity for Socialization: Another benefit of hiring a babysitter is that it can provide children with opportunities for socialization and exposure to new experiences. Babysitters can be a great resource for adding fun and additional creative activities to your child’s schedule.

Risks of Hiring a Babysitter

Safety Concerns: The safety of your child is the biggest concern for any parent when hiring a babysitter. There is always the risk that something could happen to your kid while in the care of a babysitter, such as an accident or injury.

Child Abuse: This is every parent’s nightmare. While these incidents are rare, it’s important for you to be vigilant and take steps to prevent any kind of abuse from occurring. As a nurse, I took care of quite a few children who were abused by trusted babysitters. It has left me extremely cautious about who I let watch my children.

Unreliable or Unqualified Babysitters: Finally, there is the risk of hiring an unreliable or unqualified babysitter. This could mean that the babysitter is late, cancels at the last minute, or is unable to handle emergency situations. These types of babysitters can put your job in jeopardy when you don’t have the childcare you need.

Knowing the risks and the benefits, what is a smart parent to do? My suggestion is to proceed with caution. You can’t get rid of all the possible risks, because that’s the way life is. There is however, a lot you can do to set you and your child up for the safest situation possible.

Choosing the right babysitter

This is the number 1 thing you can do to help protect your child. Who you have watch your child, and how prepared they are, makes a world of difference. Let’s go into more depth.

Considerations for Choosing a Babysitter

Qualities to Look for in a Babysitter: When hiring a babysitter, it is important to find someone who possesses certain qualities that make them a reliable and responsible caregiver. Some important qualities to look for include:

  1. Experience: Look for a babysitter who has experience caring for children, preferably in the same age range as your child. Ask for references and check them thoroughly to ensure that the babysitter has a good track record of providing safe and effective care for children.

2. Reliability: A reliable babysitter is one who shows up on time, follows the rules you set, and communicates effectively with you. Look for a babysitter who has a track record of being reliable and responsible.

3. Personality: The babysitter’s personality should be a good match for your child’s temperament. Look for someone who is patient, kind, and has a good rapport with children.

4. Conducting a Background Check and Checking References: Before hiring a babysitter, it is important to conduct a thorough background check and verify their references. This can help to ensure that the babysitter is trustworthy and qualified to care for your child. Here are some tips for conducting a background check and checking references:

5. Ask for references: Ask the babysitter to provide references from previous families they have worked with. Contact those families and ask about their experience with the babysitter.

6. Check criminal records: You can conduct a background check on the babysitter by contacting your local police department or using an online background check service. This can help you to uncover any criminal records or history of child abuse.

7. Verify qualifications: If the babysitter has any certifications or qualifications, such as CPR or first aid training, verify that they are up-to-date and valid.

8. Specific Needs of Your Child: If your child has any specific needs, such as medical conditions or special dietary requirements, it is important to find a babysitter who can accommodate those needs. Here are some tips for finding a babysitter who can meet your child’s specific needs:

Finding Potential Babysitters

We all wish we could find our own version of “Mary Poppins” someone who is practically perfect in every way. Unfortunately, in the real world, amazing babysitters simply don’t float down from the sky. Babysitters are found! There are various ways to find potential babysitters for your child, and each method has its benefits and drawbacks:

Referrals: One of the most popular ways to find a babysitter is through referrals from friends, family members, or co-workers. This method can be beneficial because the sitter comes recommended by someone you trust. Referrals can also save you time and effort in searching for a babysitter. However, one of the maajor drawbacks is that the referred sitter may not be available when you need them.

Online job boards: Many online job boards, such as Care.com, Sittercity, or UrbanSitter, allow parents to post a job and browse through potential sitters in their area. These platforms provide a wide range of sitters with different backgrounds and experiences, making it easier to find someone who fits your specific needs. However, the downside is that you may have to pay a subscription fee or a commission for using the platform. Sometimes there is limited information about the sitter’s reliability or trustworthiness.

Social media groups: Some parents may find babysitters through social media groups or community forums, such as Facebook groups or Nextdoor. This method can be beneficial because it allows parents to connect with sitters within their local community and get recommendations from other parents. However, the downside is that it may be challenging to verify their qualifications.

Family members as babysitters:

Using family members as babysitters can be a convenient and cost-effective option. Living near family, it’s admittedly the resource I use the most. However, there are both benefits and drawbacks to consider when relying on family members for childcare.

Benefits:

  1. Familiarity and Trust: When a family member takes care of your child, there is often a pre-existing level of trust and familiarity that can put parents’ minds at ease.
  2. Convenience: Family members are often readily available and may live nearby, making it easier to coordinate childcare.
  3. Cost-Effective: Depending on the situation, having a family member provide childcare may be more cost-effective than hiring a professional babysitter.

Drawbacks:

  1. Potential Strain on Relationships: Relying on a family member for childcare may put a strain on the relationship, especially if there are disagreements about parenting styles or if the family member feels like they are being taken advantage of.
  2. Lack of Professionalism: While family members may be well-intentioned, they may not have the same level of professionalism and training as a professional babysitter.
  3. Limited Availability: Family members may not always be available or willing to provide childcare, which can be an issue if parents need consistent or last-minute childcare.

Ultimately, the decision to use family members as babysitters depends on your family’s unique situation and the level of comfort and trust you have with your family members. It’s important to have open and honest communication about expectations and to set boundaries to avoid any potential conflicts. Also be aware, using family members as babysitters does not completely protect your child from abuse. Many of the cases I saw at the hospital involved children who were abused by family member babysitters.

Thoughts on teenage babysitters

Teenage babysitters can offer several advantages, such as being more affordable than adult babysitters, having a lot of energy and enthusiasm to keep up with active children, and being more relatable to older kids. However, hiring a teenage babysitter also comes with its own set of challenges, such as less experience and potentially being less mature and responsible than an adult.

When considering a teenage babysitter, it’s important to make sure they have the qualifications and experience necessary to care for your child’s specific age group. For infants and toddlers, a teenage babysitter should have experience with diaper changing, feeding, and soothing a crying baby. For older children, they should have experience with supervising and engaging in age-appropriate activities, such as playing games or doing crafts.

Teenage babysitters and social media

One of the main complaints I hear from my neighbors about teenage babysitters is their constant usage of cell phones. Cell phones can be a major distraction when someone is supposed to be watching kids. Here a few suggestions on how to handle it.

Be clear about your expectations: Start by letting your teenage babysitter know what your expectations are when it comes to their use of social media while they are watching your child. You can explain what is and isn’t acceptable behavior on social media and online.

Discuss privacy and boundaries: Talk to your teenage babysitter about the importance of respecting your family’s privacy and the boundaries you have established. This includes not sharing personal information about your family or posting photos or videos of your child online without your permission.

Address concerns about distractions: Make sure your babysitter understands that their primary responsibility is to take care of your child and that social media use should not interfere with their ability to do so. Discuss how they can balance their social media use with their caregiving responsibilities.

It might feel awkward, but by having an open and honest conversation about social media and online behavior, you can help ensure that your teenage babysitter is prepared to provide safe and responsible care for your child.

A  young couple chats with their nanny before leaving. An important part of babysitter safety is going over key details with your caregiver.

Questions to ask a potential babysitter candidate

Asking these questions will tell you a lot about the individual you are interviewing. Their answers will give you a better insight as to if the particular individual would be a good fit for your family.

  1. What is your experience with childcare? Ask about their previous babysitting or childcare experience, how long they have been working with children, and what age groups they have experience with.
  2. What are your certifications? Find out if the babysitter has any certifications or training in childcare, such as CPR and First Aid certification.
  3. What are your availability and rates? Ask about their availability and how much they charge per hour or per day. You need to be sure the babysitter is affordable for your situation.
  4. Can you provide references? Ask for references from previous families they have worked for. Don’t just look at the references, follow up with those individuals to get their honest take on your canidate.
  5. How do you handle emergency situations? Ask about their plan for handling emergencies, such as if your child gets sick or injured while they are in their care. A safe babysitter needs to have a solid plan for emergencies.
  6. What activities do you plan to do with my child? Find out what kind of activities the babysitter plans to do with your child, such as outdoor play, reading, or crafts.
  7. How do you handle discipline? Ask about their approach to discipline and how they handle behavior issues. Making sure they discipline without yelling or any physical punishment is absolutely key.
  8. Do you have any questions for me? Give the babysitter an opportunity to ask questions about your family and your child’s needs.

Asking these questions will help you discover if your potential babysitter has the necessary experience, qualifications, and personality to provide safe care for your child.

Conduct a trial run

Once you have made your decision, it can be helpful to conduct a trial run, especially if you are looking for long term full time care for your children. Taking the time to have a trial can help you and your potential babysitter determine if you are happy with the fit.

Setting Expectations and Guidelines

Setting up expectations and guidelines is important in preventing miscommunications and misunderstandings. A babysitter cannot read your mind, so you’ve got to communicate clearly. Here are a few things to discuss.

Emergency Procedures: Discuss emergency procedures with your babysitter, such as what to do in the event of a fire or if a child is injured. Make sure the babysitter knows where the first aid kit is located and has access to important phone numbers, such as your numbers, the doctor’s office, and emergency services.

House Rules: Let your babysitter know what your house rules are. This includes rules about bedtime, meals, and screen time. Be sure to discuss topics such as your visitor policy, and your preference on if they can leave the house with the children. Its also important to discuss your rules about how to discipline your child. Make sure your babysitter understands the dangers of shaking children and why it should never be done.

Child’s Schedule: Provide your babysitter with your child’s schedule, including meal times, nap times, and any extracurricular activities. Make sure the babysitter is aware of any important appointments or events that your child may have while you are gone.

Key details: Provide any additional instructions or information that your babysitter may need to know. For example, if your child has allergies or requires medication, make sure the babysitter is aware of this and knows how to administer the medication. This kind of information is critical to keeping your child safe.

Providing accurate and detailed information will help you set clear guidelines for your babysitter to follow. It will also help to prevent dangerous situations from occurring.

Making sure your babysitter has the tools they need to succeed in your home

Do a quick check and make sure your house is child safe. Don’t leave out any knives or any other dangerous materials before you leave. Take the time to discuss potential hazards unique to your home such as swimming pools, steep stairs, and pets. Make sure you show your babysitter where emergency supplies are located such as a first aide kit or a fire extinguisher. Provide your babysitter information on keeping your house secure like shutting windows and how to operate any security systems.

Make sure you leave a written checklist for your babysitter with all your important information written down. Your babysitter may be listening intently, but cold easily forget important details.

To use a nanny cam or not?

This is a controversial topic, and it’s a very personal decision. If you are thinking about using a nanny cam, here are some things to consider:

What are nanny cams?

Nanny cams, or hidden cameras are used to monitor the activities of a babysitter or nanny. They have become increasingly popular in recent years. While they can provide a sense of security and peace of mind for parents, they also raise ethical and privacy concerns. Here are some pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to use a nanny cam:

Pros:

Peace of Mind: One of the main advantages of using a nanny cam is the peace of mind it can provide to parents. You can monitor your child’s care while you are away to ensure that the babysitter is following the rules and taking good care of your child.

Evidence: If there is any suspicion of abuse or neglect, a nanny cam can provide evidence to support or refute the allegations. This can be important in legal proceedings or if there is a need to confront the babysitter about their behavior.

Supervision: Nanny cams can be used to provide an additional level of supervision to the babysitter, which may help to prevent accidents and keep the child safe.

Cons:

Invasion of Privacy: One of the biggest concerns with nanny cams is the invasion of privacy. Babysitters may feel uncomfortable with being constantly monitored and may feel like their every move is being watched.

Legal Issues: Depending on the state, it may be illegal to record someone without their consent. If the babysitter discovers the nanny cam, it could lead to legal issues and strain the relationship between the babysitter and parents.

Trust Issues: Using a nanny cam may indicate that the parents do not trust the babysitter. This can damage the relationship between the two parties and create a tense environment.

False Sense of Security: Nanny cams can provide a false sense of security. Parents may rely too heavily on the footage and neglect to check in with the babysitter or miss other signs of potential problems.

If you decide that using a nanny cam is right for your family, here are some ways to do it ethically.

Be transparent: Be upfront and honest with your babysitter about the fact that you have a nanny cam in your home. Make sure they know that you will be monitoring their activity and explain the reasons why you have chosen to install the camera.

Respect privacy: Nanny cams should only be installed in areas of the home where there is no expectation of privacy, such as common areas or the child’s bedroom. Avoid placing cameras in areas where your babysitter may need to change clothes or use the restroom.

Review footage discreetly: Only review the footage if you have a legitimate concern or suspicion that something is amiss. Avoid sharing footage with others or posting it on social media.

Use the footage for positive reinforcement: Use the footage to praise your babysitter for doing a great job and to identify areas where they can improve. Avoid using the footage to catch your babysitter in the act of doing something wrong.

What to do when you have problems with your babysitter

You can pick the person you think is best for the job, set them up for success, and still find yourself in a les than ideal situation with your babysitter. What should you do at this point?

  1. Talk to the babysitter: Schedule a time to speak with the babysitter in person or over the phone. Be respectful and calm when discussing the issue, and give the babysitter a chance to explain their side of the story. Make sure to clearly state your concerns and expectations going forward.
  2. Document the issue: If the issue is serious, it’s a good idea to document it in writing. This could include taking notes during your conversation with the babysitter, writing a summary of the issue, and keeping a record of any relevant messages or emails.
  3. Take appropriate action: Depending on the severity of the issue, you may need to take appropriate action. This could include terminating the babysitter’s employment, filing a complaint with an agency or organization, or contacting the authorities if necessary.
  4. Seek support: Dealing with issues with a babysitter can be stressful and emotional. Consider seeking support from friends, family, or a professional counselor if needed. Remember that your child’s safety and well-being should always come first.

Final Thoughts:

Hiring a babysitter is a necessity for many parents, and it’s important to approach the process with caution and prioritize your child’s safety. By considering the risks and benefits, choosing the right babysitter, setting clear expectations, and providing the necessary tools for success, you can create a safe and positive environment for your child when they are in the care of a babysitter. Remember, communication and trust are key in ensuring a successful babysitting experience for both you and your child.

Looking for more information about how to keep your child safe? Check out my articles on hot cars and kids, and firework safety.

  • Babysitting Reminders: Checklist for Parents & Sitters. (n.d.). HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved May 16, 2023, from https://healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Babysitting-Reminders.aspx
  • Babysitting Safety. (2022). Hopkinsallchildrens.org. https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/Community/Injury-Prevention-and-Child-Safety/Babysitter-Safety
  • https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/health-wellness/health-encyclopedia/he.choosing-child-care.aa43308
  • https://www.webmd.com/baby/how-to-choose-a-babysitter
  • Legality of the “Nanny Camera” in Prevention and Detection of Child Abuse – Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology law. (2015, April 2). Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law. https://cipit.strathmore.edu/legality-of-the-nanny-camera-in-prevention-and-detection-of-child-abuse/

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