Q How old does my babysitter have to be?

A If you are worried about leaving your child alone, it is better to use a babysitter. Again, there is no legal minimum age for a babysitter.

It is probably better to use a babysitter over the age of 16, but if you are choosing someone under that age, maybe make sure it is only for a short period of time, and that they know who to contact in an emergency. When choosing a babysitter, try to use someone already known to you, and always follow your instincts. If you have any doubts about the babysitter, don’t use them! Don’t be afraid of asking for references, and contact the referees yourself.

Listen to your child, and act upon any concerns the child raises. If your child is unhappy about the babysitter, find someone else.

Q How can I make sure my child is accessing the internet safely?

A The internet, as most of us know, is a fantastic tool for learning new things, contacting people, catching up on films, TV, downloading music, and generally having fun.

However, in the wrong hands, it can also have very negative affects as we are all only too aware. Children are particularly vulnerable, and are at risk of getting into difficult or potentially dangerous situations.

As parents or carers, how do we best protect our children and yet ensure that they can continue to learn and take advantage of the fantastic tools available?

Children under the age of 13 are not legally allowed to register on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It is very important that parents do not feel pressured by their child into allowing them onto these sites below this age.

Talk to your child and underline the messages that their teachers at school are giving them about online safety.

Talk to their schools if you are not sure what the school’s policies and procedures are.

Be aware about the following risks that your child might be exposed to online:

  • Cyber-bullying
  • Grooming
  • Exposure to pornography or unsuitable material
  • Ignoring age restrictions on games etc.
  • Sharing personal information
  • Getting into online gambling or debt

Make sure you have appropriate privacy and parental controls and age restrictions in place, and take advice from IT providers if you are unsure about how to do this.

Keep alert for any worrying signs, and address them with your child if you are worried.

Be as aware as you can be about how your child is using the internet.

If you need to, take advice from your local social services departments or from the NSPCC (0808 800 5000) or from Childline 0800 1111.