Analysis

Is 13 years old too young to babysit?

A Connecticut mom finds out the hard way that police consider her newly minted teenager too immature to watch over young kids

In a case that's disturbing parenting bloggers, a Connecticut mom was recently arrested and accused of endangering her four children after leaving them home alone. The 39-year-old woman, Rebecca Young, left her 13-year-old in charge of her younger children, ages 10, 4, and 1 and a half, while she went to church. A neighbor called police to report that the 4-year-old had wandered across the street into her yard. Plenty of kids start babysitting in their early teens, but is 13 too young?

Of course not: This 13-year-old apparently "wasn't good enough at the gig to handle a handful of kids," says Jeanne Sager at The Stir, but cut Young some slack. She swears her teenager was only holding down the fort for a half hour until a grown-up babysitter arrived, and it's not as if she left "a house full of toddlers." Many babysitters get started at 13 or younger — I did. "If this is now criminal behavior, we're all in trouble."
"Mom arrested for letting her 13-Year-old babysit"

In this case, 13 was too young: Plenty of mature, responsible 13-year-olds can be counted on to watch younger kids, says Meredith Carroll at Babble. Still, "it seems to me as if, in this case, the mom probably was wrong." The fact that Young's 4-year-old managed to wander off — and cross the street alone — is a pretty good indication that "it was probably too big a job for a kid so young."
"At what age should older kids be permitted to babysit their younger siblings?"

This is a call for parents — not police: Connecticut's Department of Children and Family does say that teens shouldn't be left in charge of little ones until age 15, says Heather Borden Herve at New Canaan Patch. But that's a mere guideline. Ultimately moms and dads — not cops — know at what age their kids are ready to handle responsibilities and independence. "We've all been there" — sometimes the snap choices we make to handle our busy lives don't work out as we hoped. But that doesn't make them crimes.
"You're guilty! She's guilty! We're all guilty!"

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