How young is too young to babysit in North Carolina?

26 January 2023

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Did you know that about 20 states have set a minimum age for a young person to babysit outside his or her residence?

Would you be surprised to know that only one state where there is a minimum age sets that limit younger than is suggested in North Carolina?

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And would you be surprised to know that you only have to be at least 8 years old to be paid to watch children in our state?

Well, it’s uncertain how firm that rule is, but at least one source suggests that, in a state where you must be 15 to get a driver’s permit, 18 to vote and 21 to buy alcohol or tobacco, the care and well-being of children can be relegated to a third-grader.

A compilation by shows that NC, Georgia and Maryland share the 8-year-old threshold. In Kansas, you only must be 6 (yep, first grade).

Illinois has the highest minimum age (14), and Colorado, Delaware and Mississippi set the bar at 12. Michigan uses 11 years old as its limit, and New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington place that requirement at 10. North Dakota says 9.

All of that feels arbitrary. About 30 states don’t have an established minimum age for jobs that, by observation, usually would be filled by at least a teenager and sometimes by an adult.

Another site, Legal Beagle, says that North Carolina has no specific state law regarding teens and babysitting. That site even links to a child services site that provides referrals for potential babysitters.

But all of this left us with questions, and we went looking for answers that young people who might be employed in North Carolina – babysitting or otherwise – should want to know.

1. There are employment age limits.

As to formal employment that does not necessarily involve caregivers, North Carolina law provides that someone 13 years of age or younger may not be employed. The exception is that children 12 and 13 years old may be employed outside school hours to distribute newspapers to consumers – but not more than three hours a day (as if there were any children who still tossed papers on doorsteps).

2. Be sure a job is safe.

Otherwise, operating under laws stipulated by the U.S. Department of Labor for employment of younger teens, the state of North Caroline provides a list of potentially hazardous or detrimental occupations for children. Mining jobs, power-tool-operating roles and (appropriately) meat-packing are on the list, but babysitting a group of potentially sassy and diseased children is not.

3. Training, certification and licensing may be needed.

But perhaps that’s why the American Red Cross offers a course – which includes something called “universal babysitting skills” – as do some YMCAs, that provide offer formal and detailed training and certification for potential babysitters. Sounds like lifeguard training outside the water. And beware that if you care for three or more preschool-age children – which some babysitters might – you could be required by the state to have a child-care license. There are higher allowances for older children before licensing is required.

4. By the way, if you can’t afford a sitter, there are no specific laws about how young a child can be left alone.

The NC Department of Health and Human Services told WNCN-TV that “NC fire code specifies that children under age 8 should not be locked or confined.” Otherwise, it’s up to you as a parent or guardian to decide if that third-grader who can babysit the neighbor can also have free run of the family residence. We are guessing where that aforementioned age limit was divined from this.

5. Babysitters can make decent cash.

Of course, whether a child or even an adult would want to take on the role of diaper-changing, spat-stopping and food-policing for children could come down to money. And what used to cost parents a dollar or so an hour while they sneaked out to a movie may now cost more per hour than one of those parents brings in. There’s a site that analyzed all of that for North Carolina and found that we pay our sitters a bit more than the state’s paltry $7.25 minimum wage. found that the average rate statewide is about $12.96 per hour, which can depend on “location, responsibilities, qualifications and the type of care needed.” The highest rates were in Durham (where the average is $16.69), Asheville and Raleigh. We wonder if snacks remain available, too.

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