TAVARES, Fla. – Parents have a new option for teaching their children skills to care for themselves and younger siblings.
The Safe Sitter summer program at Florida Hospital Waterman began as a way to teach 11- to 14-year-olds better babysitting practices.
"We teach basic first aid, we even teach basic CPR skills and what to do with a choking infant," said Debbie Dudley, registered nurse and certified Safe Sitter instructor.
The course is nationally recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics and is led by six registered nurses.
The nurses tell the students they like to practice as if it's real life, with lessons in diaper changing, infant CPR and emergency scenarios.
"I don't think that it's for everybody," Dudley said. "You don't want to hire a babysitter who is going to be on their cellphone or their laptop the entire time."
In addition to teaching practical skills, the instructors have information on how to run a babysitting business. This year the coursework was modified to include cybersecurity.
"We want them to be safe. We don't want them to be advertising themselves as a babysitter and not know who they are communicating with," Dudley said.
Some of the participants had babysitting experience with siblings, while others were learning the skills to get babysitting jobs ahead of the school year.
"I think more people should do something like this because some people might not know what to do if there's an emergency because they're like, what are the odds that that'll actually happen? It's just better to be safe," said Casey Congdon, a Safe Sitter participant.
The cost of the course is $50 per student, which covers a backpack, CPR certification cards and course booklets. Parents can begin signing their kids up for the program as early as April 1.
Florida Hospital Orlando also offers a two-day Safe Sitter program for $75. Anyone interested in registering can sign up for the event here.