08 January 2006

Abuse alert over childminder site

Sunday Life

Sunday Life discovers how easy it is to fake credentials on babysitting service

By Ciaran McGuigan, Chief Reporter
08 January 2006

PARENTS were last night warned about child predators using an online babysitting service to target vulnerable kids.

The dire warning came after Sunday Life exposed how easy it was for an imposter to pass themselves off as a bona fide childminder on the website.

Dublin-based internet company www.babysitters.ie bills itself as Ireland's first website dedicated to uniting parents and babysitters.

It provides dozens of potential 'babysitters' across Northern Ireland.

But Sunday Life has discovered the website is potentially open to abuse by perverts who prey on both children and young babysitters.

We discovered how easy it was for anyone to fake credentials as a genuine childminder via the website.

In just a few minutes, we were able to create the identity of a qualified primary school teacher, who also has childcare experience and first aid skills, and offer their services as a babysitter.

We were also able to create two fake references for our 'babysitter'.

And our fictitious teacher was quickly added to the list of thousands of available babysitters across Ireland who are registered with the site.

While those using the service may be genuine, the risk of impostors looms large.

Pip Jaffa of the Belfast-based Parents Advice Centre warned: "There are two aspects to this (website service) - the young person doing the babysitting could be trapped, or the children could be vulnerable.

"Those who do not have the best interests of the children and young people in mind, and who want to target children for their own gain, use opportunities that are around and they actively seek out ways to access young people.

"The controls against someone being able to use this website, or something similar like that happening, would be of utmost importance."

Website owner Comado Limited - which also runs an online fashion house and websites for clubbing, mobile ringtone downloads and a gay dating service - gets users to agree to a legal waiver that clears them of any liability should anything go wrong with the website.

However, there were no indications of any substantial background checks being carried out on applicants.

Added Ms Jaffa: "Anyone who would leave the most precious and prized thing in their lives in the charge of anybody needs to scrutinise very closely who these people are. Selecting a babysitter is not just about finding somebody who is available, but someone who is competent and dedicated to looking after the child and who can be relied on.

"They need to be competent to deal with whatever situation could arise with the child."

Comado director Hugh Durkin said no checks were made on the babysitters, but added that it was up to parents to meet with them to decide if they were suitable.

"It's as safe as answering an ad in the local paper or using a agency.

"I leave it (background checks) up to the parents, but I do not think anyone should be lax. And we have not had any complaints.

"And if there is any dispute we can pass our information to the Gardai."

Comments: Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?