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Anonymous
Anonymous asks:
Q:

At what age should kids be allowed to be home alone?

My two sons are 7 and 5 years old.  A couple of times recently I've been tempted to leave them alone in our house for a few minutes (to run something over to a neighbor's house, take the dog for a quick walk, etc).  We live in a very safe neighborhood and they're very responsible kids.  My older son knows how to use the phone and how to contact emergency services through our alarm system's keypad.  They frequently play for 20 or 30 minutes at a time without needing anything from me.  So I know they'd be perfectly ok if I left them for a short period but for some reason I haven't been able to bring myself to do it - I think mostly because I'm concerned about what others might think.  I've never heard another parent say that they've left their kids of the same age home alone.

When I was 7, I was allowed to play in our neighborhood, go to the corner store for my mom, and even ride public transportation home from school alone (or with friends my own age).  I know the world is a different place now and I'm not saying I would let my kids do those kinds of things today.  But I do think there's something to be said for giving kids a little bit of freedom so they start to learn how to make good decisions and take responsibility for themselves.

What do you think?
In Topics: Self esteem and identity, Parenting / Our Family
> 60 days ago

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Expert

BMelton
Jan 7, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

This is an excellent question! You are absolutely right about encouraging children to be responsible and to make good decisions. You are also correct about the world being very different from when you were young and lived in a community where you could play in the neighborhood, go to the corner store and ride public transportation. Children need the security of knowing that they are safe and secure and that means having the supervision of a responsible adult.  

Children, ages 5 and 7, are too young to be left at home alone. Playing 20 to 30 minutes without direct parent involvement is different than not having a parent supervising in the area. Children need parent supervision until at least age 12. At that age, the rules for being home alone need to be restrictive (such as not answering the door or not allowing unauthorized people in the house).  

Here's a hypothetical situation, if the children were left alone and one choked accidentally, who would be responsible? The seven year old? The five year old? You are responsible as the parent until the child is 18 years old.

Our challenge as parents is to prepare our children to be independent, responsible adults by teaching them age-appropriate behaviors and giving them age-appropriate rules and structure.

You may want to consider asking a teen in the neighborhood to babysit for an hour (or more) once a week so that you can visit with friends.

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TheNapkinDad
Jan 7, 2010
Level

Best Answer!

what's this?
from a fellow member
a five year old by him or herself? Probably not. Two of them, one 7, one 5, both of whom you say are responsible and well behaved?  
I say try it.

Explain in advance what it is you are going to do.  

Explain that you are allowing them to stay home alone because you think they are trustworthy.

Tell them that you will be making decisions about leaving them alone in the future based on how they do while you are gone the first few times. That way they understand it is in their best interest to behave for that future reward.  

Explain about answering (or not answering) the phone.
 
Explain about any odd sounds they may hear (washing machine, community testing of alarms, etc).  

Explain what is off limits in no uncertain terms, (kitchen appliances, etc).

Then go to a neighbors for 10 minutes and see what happens. Maybe call them to see how they answer the phone.

Then talk to them afterwards about how they thought it went.

Forget about what others will think, you will NEVER be able to fulfill others' expectations of how to raise your kids, you can only fulfill your own.
The Napkin Dad
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Additional Answers (10)

andreaagius
andreaagius writes:
12
> 60 days ago

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dgraab
dgraab , Parent writes:
Thank you for your question! This is definitely a tough judgment call, and one I too will struggle with as a parent.

Before deciding to leave our daughter home alone, I will research state and county law to see if there is a regulated/legal minimum age for leaving one's minor child home alone. Some states have minimum age law and/or guidelines in this regard; some don't.

Here's another resource to check out:

Latchkey-Kids.com's "Age Restrictions for Latchkey Kids"
http://www.latchkey-kids.com/latchkey-kids-age-limits.htm

They note, "The National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left at home alone."

I hope this helps. All the best to you in your decision-making.

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meneefee
meneefee writes:
i think that if they are responsible kids then it is ok to go to the grocery store or pick up something . only don`t let them stay alone at night until the reach around 11 or 12
> 60 days ago

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xavier044
xavier044 writes:
Times are different now so I would not suggest you leave them alone at that age. Maybe when they are 15 and 13 and only if they are mature enough to be left alone.  At 7 and 5 they can get into a lot.
> 60 days ago

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Trishabenz_Smith
Trishabenz_... writes:
Wow! This is basically the same question I’d asked myself. We have 3 kids and their ages range from 13, 9 and 5. My husband and I always prioritize their safety. We cannot be with our children all the time because we are both working, so to ensure their safety we registered them to “SafeKidZone”. It’s a panic button alert installed on their cell phones that in just a press of it, their trusted friends, family members and the nearest 911 will be notified that they are in danger. It has also some features that are very useful not just for our children but for us their parents. It really helped mitigate our worries so if you want to check out, this is their site http://safekidzone.com/
> 60 days ago

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JHGGUGUHUHJKHIOJLJ
JHGGUGUHUHJ... writes:
to be honest i really dont know.......................
> 60 days ago

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amanda323
amanda323 writes:
For myself, I didn't leave my kids alone until they were 10 and 12 and only for an hour or two at the most. I just don't think 5 and 7 is old enough for any amount of time. What if your 10-15 minute trip turns into hours because of an accident. At that age they don't understand and would feel abandoned.
> 60 days ago

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Karenmom
Karenmom writes:
7 & 5 alone?!  This is not responsible parenting.

You may want to contact social services and find out the laws regarding this, I'm 99% sure that it is illegal and I'm 100% sure that it should be.

Best wishes to you and your young children!
> 60 days ago

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Karenmom
Karenmom writes:
Hi,

I just had to come back and respond to this question again.  Last night on the news channel- a woman was arrested and charged with 3 counts of felony child neglect because she left her 7, 5 and 3 year old home alone.

I immediately thought of this question and thought you should be aware of the charges in a felony prison you could be facing for this type of behavior.

It may seem to you that it is an unjust charge, but had she not been caught the three children would now be dead.  A neighbor happened to notice the beeping sound of a carbon dioxide detector coming from the house, it was at night, he went over to the house and busted a window to rescue the three semi-conscious children.  The children were taken to the hospital and will be okay, however, they would not have lived through the night.  The mother was contacted at work and arrested.  The children will be placed in another home once they have been released from the hospital, meanwhile the mother will not have to concern herself with work or parenting.

Thought you may find this interesting.  I was going to leave a link for you, but when I searched for the topic there were many, many listed for felony child neglect (same reason) do a search for yourself and see how you would like to be listed among these folks.

Best wishes & hope you make wise choices for yourself & children!
> 60 days ago

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BigSis
BigSis writes:
Hi,

I think that the child must be at an age (possibly 13 or older) and maturity level where he/she can take care of him/herself before they are left home alone. Sometimes the unexpected can happen and you need to be certain that your child is capable of handling the situation appropriately.

I've experience some weird things while I was at home with my sister. For example, my parents were out of town and my sister and I heard knocking on the front door the first night that we were home alone. I told her to hide as I peeked through one of the windows where I could not be seen. Since no one answered, the stranger began pounding on the door and aggressively ringing the doorbell. I made note of what he looked like and called the police as I watched him leaving and angry outside our doorstep.

The experience was pretty frightening even for a 24 year old and I'm not sure what my sister would have done if she was by herself. What if she thought it was someone she knew and she opened the door? Who knows what would have happened. We live in a safe neighborhood where people won't usually do those sort of things, and it's always hard to imagine something bad happening in that type of setting. I've learned that it's better to be safe than sorry; better to be cautious than too trusting.

Times have changed and I believe that it's good to teach children how to make good decisions and take responsibility for themselves, but parents must also gauge if their children are ready to learn. Be sure that your child is at an age and maturity level where he/she is ready to be given the responsibilities that you've set out.

Lessons in safety and responsibility can also be carried out while they are under your supervision. While your sons are accompanying you at the grocery store, for example, have them help you find the items on your list and teach them to pay attention to their surroundings while in the store, crossing the street, getting into the car, etc. Teaching them to become more aware of the world around them is a great lesson that they will keep with them through out their lives.

Good luck!
> 60 days ago

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