Babysitter Safety Training: Are Children Aged 11-13 Years Prepared to Deal with Emergencies While Caring for Younger Children?

Sunday, October 3, 2010
Yerba Buena Salons 12-13 (San Francisco Marriott Marquis)
Nicole M. Hackman, M.D.1, Robert P. Olympia, MD2 and Katie Cass, MS, III1, (1)Pediatrics, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, PA, (2)Pediatrics, Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, Hershey, PA

Purpose  Little research has been conducted to evaluate the safety knowledge of children in this age group.  However, it is this precise population that is often left alone to care for younger children during the after school hours.  Our study question is an important one to answer, as it will directly evaluate the safety of these children.  By identifying areas in which children are unsafe, we can target educational programs to correct that knowledge deficit.  Our objective is to describe safety training of pre-teen babysitters and to identify unsafe behaviors and gaps in safety knowledge.

Methods A questionnaire was administered to a convenience sample of children aged 11-13 years attending school in central Pennsylvania.  The questionnaire focused on previous safety training (American Red Cross Safe Sitter program, First aid, Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation),  knowledge of emergency contacts and location of emergency equipment, and personal experience with emergencies requiring 911 activation while babysitting. 

Results The data represent 737 respondents who have cared for a younger infant or child as a babysitter.  Safety training of pre-teen babysitters includes an American Red Cross Safe Sitter or other babysitting safety class (19%), First aid (51%), and Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (47%).  The majority of pre-teen babysitters were familiar with who to contact in the event of an intruder (98%), a fire (98%), or a sick or injured child (96%), and 85% of respondents were familiar with who to contact in the event of a poisoning.  92% of pre-teen babysitters were familiar with the location of first aid supplies and 64% with the location of a fire extinguisher.  Several safety concerns were evident: 40% of pre-teen babysitters have left younger children unattended while babysitting and 20% have opened the door to strangers.  10% of pre-teen babysitters have had a personal experience with an emergency requiring 911 activation.  The most common emergency requiring activation included a significant fall (10 respondents), a house fire (8 respondents), profuse bleeding from a laceration (6 respondents), and significant head trauma (6 respondents).

Conclusion Although emergencies requiring 911 activation occur infrequently during babysitting, a small percentage of pre-teen babysitters in our study have received safety training, creating an unsafe environment for the babysitter and the children they are responsible for.  Education should focus on preparing pre-teen babysitters to safely respond to common emergency situations.

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