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5 Legal Tips for Babysitters

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

From babysitters using babies as decoys to steal booze to driving with babies in truck beds, it's pretty clear babysitters can use a few legal tips.

At the end of the day, the goal should be to keep the child occupied, happy, and above all, safe. At the same time, you'll also want to keep yourself away from any potential legal trouble.

Here are five legal tips for all the babysitters out there:

  • Be careful about how hard you spank. In general, state laws allow a babysitter to spank a misbehaving child using a reasonable amount of force. Since the law is somewhat unclear, and spanking makes children susceptible to medical issues, it's probably best to keep your hands to yourself.
  • Know that you may be on hidden camera -- but it may not be legal. Video-only nanny cam recordings are generally legal, but they must be used for a reasonable purpose. Many states laws don't allow the use of nanny cams that also record audio. And several states require consent.
  • Watch out for toppling TVs. TVs falling on children may conjure the image of a silly cartoon, but in reality, it's a disturbing trend that's proving fatal for some children. If you can't reinforce a TV yourself, don't let the kids out of your sight. If you put the child at risk, or don't provide adequate supervision, you could face child endangerment charges.
  • Be careful about "babysitting" teens. When teens drink or do drugs behind your back, you could be in trouble, too. If you knowingly furnish teens with alcohol, or should have known they were drinking while under your care, you may be arrested under social host liability laws.
  • Don't forget to pay your taxes. Babysitting income is generally taxable, though there are exceptions depending on whether you're under 18, how much money you made, and whether babysitting is your primary occupation, among other factors. In many cases, an employer may be legally required to (but chooses not to) withhold babysitter taxes, reports The New York Times. This area of the law can get complicated, so you may want to consult an experienced tax lawyer to figure out what applies to your situation.
Things can get even more complicated if your weekend babysitting gig grows into a small business, which may require a license. If that's the case, then it may be time to give a local business attorney a call.

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