Babysitters: What Parents Need to Know
by Bonnie Gibbs
Finding-and keeping-a great babysitter can be a challenge. To help with the
process, Good Housekeeping went to the experts with some of your burning
questions. Here, information you can't afford to ignore.
Q: How can I be sure I'm hiring a good babysitter?
A: Take your time to find one: Get the names of possible sitters from people
you know, and check other references. Invite the sitter to your house and watch
how she and your child interact. Then remind her that she'll be responsible for
your child's life. "It's critical that whoever is going to take care of the
child understand that," says Patricia Keener, M.D., the founder of Safe
Sitter, a program that teaches babysitting skills.
Q: Is it riskier to hire a male babysitter?
A: Yes, as far as sexual abuse is concerned. Seventy-seven percent of
reported sexual assaults by babysitters are committed by males. Pay special
attention to teenage boys: Nearly half of babysitter sex offenders are younger
Q: Does that mean it's safer to hire a girl?
A: Not necessarily. Females commit 64 percent of the reported physical
assaults-hitting, slapping-against kids by babysitters. But keep in mind that
of all assaults, sexual or physical, against children, more than 90 percent are
committed by family members or acquaintances-not by babysitters.
Q: What's the deal with nanny cams?
A: You can hide these small, wireless cameras in a room and, from any computer,
monitor the images they're sending. The cameras cost around $200 each and are
legal in all 50 states (though be aware that in 15 states, you can't record
someone's speech without her knowledge). You can also rent them; one site to
try is knowyournanny.com, where cameras cost about $50 each for a seven-day
Q: What else can I do to check up on my sitter?
A: Every once in a while, make unannounced visits. "Go back and say, ‘I
forgot something' or ‘I have a headache,'" suggests Dr. Keener. And, at all
times, the best thing you can do is trust your instincts. If you sense that
something is wrong, don't talk yourself out of it. Get to the bottom of the
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