Babysitting Essay

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Babysitting  refers to caring for a child or children while parents  are away, usually for a brief period. There is a long history of babysitting in the United States, with  the Saturday  Evening  Post describing babysitting as a “key  industry” in 1948.  The importance of babysitting continues—today, with the majority  of adolescent  girls reporting that babysitting was their  first paid  job. Parents  often hire a babysitter to mind their children in order to allow themselves time to run an errand, carry out work  responsibilities, or  engage  in  child-free  leisure activities and socializing. From the time babysitting was in its infancy in the 1920s, parents  have expressed  concerns  about  the  well-being  of their children  when  under  the care of a babysitter, and thus, great attention is often given to hiring a babysitter.

Responsibilities Of A Babysitter

The tasks and responsibilities of a babysitter tend to vary greatly based on the age of the children and the characteristics of the family. For instance, a sitter caring  for a young  infant  may be expected  to change diapers  and prepare  bottles,  whereas  a sitter for a seven-year-old  will likely serve more of a supervisory and entertainment function. Regardless of the age of the child being cared for, maintaining the safety of the child is the babysitter’s  first priority.  Babysitters  often  play  with  and  read  to  the children  under  their care. In addition, baby sitters may be responsible  for more routine  care, such as feeding, bathing,  and  dressing  the  children  under their care. If parents  are out for the evening, babysitters may be responsible  for bedtime routines and putting  the children to sleep.

Child Safety  Considerations

Parents  often  are very careful  to selecting a sitter, with  particular concern  for the physical  safety of their  children.  A recent  survey  by  the  American Red Cross suggests that more than half the parents report  that  they  have  struggled  to  find  a trusted babysitter and have elected to simply stay home as a  result.   Approximately  30  percent   of  parents report  that they chose not to use a particular babysitter  because  they were worried  about  the safety of their child/children. These concerns  are not entirely  unwarranted as other  studies  have found that   babysitters  frequently   report   encountering minor household emergencies such as children cutting  themselves  and  even more  major  events  like children choking.

A number  of programs have  been  designed  to teach teenagers  to be responsible  babysitters, with the goal of reducing accidental and preventable injuries and deaths  when children  are out of their parents’ care. Patricia Kenner started one such program, Safe Sitter,  in  1980,  after  a  colleague’s child died after choking  while under  the care of a babysitter who was unprepared for such an emergency. A similar babysitting program is offered by the   American   Red   Cross,   and   the   American Academy of Pediatrics  BLAST (Babysitter  Lessons and  Safety Training)  Program  also seeks to teach teenagers  first  aid  skills and  basic  child  development information.

Although  parents  report  preferring  a babysitter with  training   in  first  aid  and  babysitting skills, research studies report  that many adolescent  babysitters  have not  completed  these types of training. A recent  study  compared the survey responses  of babysitters with  formal  training   and  those  who lacked  such  training. There  was  a  great  deal  of similarity in the responses of trained  and untrained babysitters, with  the exception  that  trained  babysitters  are  more  likely to  request  emergency  contact  information from  the parents  whose  children they  are  babysitting. Certain   unsafe  babysitting practices were also reported: 36 percent of babysitters reported leaving the child in their  care unattended,  and 24 percent  reported opening  the door to a stranger. The pediatricians who conducted this study  point  to  the  importance of  improving  the training  offered  to  babysitters by including  more simulations and role plays to better  prepare  babysitters  for  the  types  of emergency  situations they may encounter.

Working As  A Babysitter

Some  parents   are  able  to  rely  on  friends   and family members to assist with caring for their children,  but  when  they  hire  a  babysitter, it  is more  common  to employ  a nonfamilial teenager than  a nonfriend, nonfamilial adult. This is likely because babysitting is not a steady job but may be ideal for teenagers  who are balancing  school and extracurricular commitments. Adults  seeking employment  in child care often become a nannies or  work  in a day  care  setting,  given that  this  is a more permanent form of employment  than babysitting.

Children   below  14  years  of  age  are  banned from  carrying  out  most  forms  of work,  but  they are  allowed  to  work  in  informal,  freelance  settings. Many youth engage in less formal work arrangements,  with  43  percent   of  14-year-olds and  40  percent   of  15-year-olds reporting  freelance  work.  The  majority   (91  percent)  of  freelance jobs for female adolescents are related to babysitting,  and   often   this  is  their   first  work experience. In contrast, the majority  of male adolescents   report   doing  yard  work;   less  than 25 percent  report  doing babysitting.

Babysitting  offers many  advantages for adolescents. First, youth  can earn money by babysitting; the  average  hourly  rate  is between  $10  and  $12, which is higher than the minimum  wage. Furthermore, adolescents  can develop professional and  networking skills, and  many  babysitting programs focus on developing a business plan and recruiting  clients.

Recent  Trends In Babysitting

There are some interesting recent trends in babysitting. The American  Red Cross  and  other  training programs have noted  an increase in the number  of male babysitters. As a result,  many  programs are revising their training  materials  to feature  male as well as female babysitters. There are also now several high-tech tools and Web sites for matching babysitters  and  potential clients.  Some  of  these sites draw from the methods  used by dating sites— and  one even offers a babysitter search  similar  to speed dating:  Parents  meet a number  of sitters for only a few minutes  and  then  indicate  whom  they would  be interested  in hiring.

Bibliography:

  1. Forman-Brunell, Miriam. Babysitter: An American History.  New York: New York University Press, 2009.
  2. Hackman, Nicole, Katie Cass, and Robert “Compliance of Middle School–Aged Babysitters  in Central  Pennsylvania  With National Recommendations for Emergency Preparedness and Safety Practices.”  Clinical Pediatrics, v.51 (2012).
  3. Rothstein, Donna. “Youth Employment in the United States.” Monthly Labor Review,  124 (2001).

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