Babysitting younger siblings or the kids down the street is an American tradition for teenagers. Although some states might impose laws regulating babysitters, others leave the choice up to the parents. Florida is in the latter category and does not regulate this kind of informal, part-time childcare.
Florida Babysitting Laws
A babysitter is a different position than either a nanny or a childcare provider. Essentially, babysitting means taking charge of a child or several children while the parents are temporarily away. Typically, parents pay someone to come into their home to look after their minor children while they go out for the evening. Often this someone is the teenager who lives down the street, perhaps even a family member.
If you are looking for babysitting laws that set out the legal age to babysit in Florida or some other state, your search might well yield nothing. Few states regulate babysitting.
Child Labor Laws
You might wonder if child labor laws have any application to babysitting. Child labor laws protect children in the workforce. These laws were first enacted during the Industrial Revolution, and they regulate wages, hours and working conditions for youthful workers, those under 18 years old. There are two sets of child labor laws: federal regulations and state regulations. When the two conflict, the courts will always apply the stricter regulation.
Regulations cover both agricultural work and nonagricultural work, specifying how old a child must be to work in the different fields. It might seem that this regulatory scheme is quite comprehensive, but a variety of exceptions apply. Some jobs are not covered at all by child labor laws. One of these jobs is babysitting. Neither Florida law nor relevant federal law regulating child labor applies to babysitters.
Leaving Kids Home With an Older Sibling
Florida law is also silent when it comes to regulating the age kids should be for parents to leave them home alone. Instead, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families, parents are expected to make these types of decisions after taking all of the circumstances into account. Florida leaves it up to the parents to decide the level of supervision their kids need while they go out and the age of the babysitter, or older sibling, who provides that supervision to younger kids.
The department notes that children mature at different rates, which means that the state cannot specify an age at which children are "considered 'old enough' to stay home by themselves for short periods." Parents know their kids best and must evaluate each child’s individual emotional development. Likewise, only parents can decide whether an older sibling is old enough to watch the younger siblings.
- baby-sitters poster image by robert mobley from Fotolia.com