There is no law that says how old a child must be to be able to babysit. Parents are expected to make their own decisions and in doing so the only guidance the law provides is that they make make reasonable decisions about their children’s safety.
What is reasonable will depend on:
- each individual family's circumstances;
- the age and maturity of the child who will be babysitting;
- any other factors that might be relevant (e.g. whether the child or children being cared for have special needs, such as requiring monitoring of medication).
What the law does say about parent’s responsibilities towards children
- Parents are responsible for the care, welfare and development of their children [Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)]
- it is an offence for a parent to leave their children in a dangerous situation and/or leave a child or children unfed, without clothing or accommodation [ see Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) ss 14 and 30]
- the Police or the Department for Child Protection have the power to remove children or young people if necessary to protect them from suffering serious harm and there is no reasonably workable alternative [see Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA) s 41]
Where a child under 18 years of age is left to babysit and something goes wrong who is liable?
Where a child under the age of 18 is left to babysit and the issue of negligence or liability arises it is likely that the parent or parents will be held liable for the carer in addition to the children being cared for. Where a child under the age of 18 is left in charge of younger children they will not be judged by the same standards as an adult.
There are a number of questions parents need to ask themselves before deciding whether to allow older children to babysit younger children and excellent resources are located on the Parenting SA website including a guide called Home Alone.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.