Watch any horror movie – or think back to the urban legends you’ve heard when you were younger. Chances are good that there’s at least one story involving a babysitter.
My favorite tale (or least favorite, if I had to babysit after hearing this one!) was the story about the teenaged girl who keeps getting the anonymous phone calls while babysitting. The raspy sinister voice never identifies who the caller is when the babysitter picks up the phone. He only says, “Do you know where the children are?”
As a pre-caller ID urban legend, the unsuspecting babysitter calls the phone company’s operator to find out the source of the phone calls . . . only to find out the calls were coming from inside the home!
Of course, tales such as these are purely fictional, designed for the sole purpose of scaring preteens and teens during sleepovers and at campfires. But real babysitter safety is a true concern. Not only are babysitters caring for someone else’s child or children, but many times these caregivers are also providing care in neighborhoods. They’ve never been in before in such a way and for families they may not know all that well.
Fortunately, technology and safety measures in general have advanced well beyond caller ID. Check out the following babysitter safety tips and gadgets to keep you – or your child – safe the next time you babysit:
Especially when meeting a family for the first time, there are lots of questions to ask the parents before they leave for the day. Most parents will provide you with much of this information in advance or when you arrive at the house. However, you can use this handy checklist to make sure you have the 411 you need:
- Parents’ names and cell phone numbers
- Where parent(s) will be and for how long
- If applicable, the phone number of the establishment where parents will be (movies, work, restaurant, etc.)
- Name(s) and phone number(s) of trusted neighbors
- House address and phone number (if the family has a landline)
- Phone numbers for local police, fire, EMS, hospital, etc.
- Child(ren)’s name(s), nickname(s) and age(s), including likes/dislikes
- Any allergies (food, environmental, etc.) – if so, ask about the location of an EpiPen (if needed) and directions for use (note: you may want to ask your family doctor to train you)
- General schedule (activities, screen time directions/rules, bedtime, mealtime, nap time, homework requirements, and any other house rules)
- Location of extra clothing, food, water, diapers, etc.
- Directions to unlock cabinets, doors and gates (if house is baby proofed)
- Directions for baby monitors and/or cameras
Even if you don’t always follow these guidelines in your own home, remember that you are a guest in someone else’s home. You owe it to the family to do everything in your power to keep their child(ren) safe:
- Keep exterior doors locked. Even if you’re in a “safe” neighborhood, emergencies can happen anywhere. It doesn’t hurt to keep doors locked at all times.
- Close gates and doors behind you when leaving a room. This is especially important if you are watching very young children who could wander off into rooms and stairwells that aren’t baby proofed.
- Turn off (and unplug) appliances. After using a hair dryer, blender, toaster, or oven, be sure to turn off and unplug these appliances. This will prevent electrical fires, tripping, and more.
- Supervise constantly. No matter the age, don’t assume you don’t need to check on the children if they’re napping or playing quietly. If the child (or baby) is asleep, set a timer on your phone to remind you to peek in (or check the monitor) at regular intervals.
If possible, keep everyone in the same area so you are constantly supervising everyone. In the event that you are watching older children and they are allowed to have greater independence. But you have to devise the ways to supervise everyone as closely as possible. For example, if the older sibling is allowed to shoot hoops with the neighbors in the driveway, position yourself at the kitchen window. Watch him or her while the toddler plays with blocks on the kitchen floor.
- Stay near the children when they are eating. Choking can happen to anyone, so be sure to remain close by when the kids are eating a snack or meal. In the case of very small children, be sure the food is cut into bite-sized pieces. You need to avoid foods that tend to be choking hazards, like whole grapes, hard candies, and uncut hot dogs.
The Silent Beacon personal safety device is the best way to stay safe on all of your babysitting assignments. In the event of an emergency, all you need to do is press the button on the small, lightweight device. Because the device pairs with the free Silent Beacon app, pressing the button triggers an alert. Alerts are then pushed out to everyone on your pre-stored Silent Beacon contact list and this list can include emergency personnel. The alerts can be sent via text, phone call, email . . . or all three.
Best of all, the affordable device (only $99.99) directly contacts first responders. There are no costly call centers that can actually waste precious minutes by dealing with a “middle man” to get you help. Visit here.
Yes, there are many unknowns whenever you step into someone’s house for the first time to babysit. But by following the babysitter safety tips – and thanks to the Silent Beacon personal safety device – you can now have the peace of mind you deserve for every babysitting job.