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View Full Version : At what age should kids* be allowed to stay home alone?



thalassa
04 May 2016, 03:48
Also (in addition to the title question and poll), what caveats would you give it?

*This assumes an "average" child of "normal" development and reasonably maturity/responsibility for their age.

Amadi
04 May 2016, 03:55
My parents both worked late so I stayed at an after school club for a period, by 9 years I was going home alone & was perfectly fine.
If you're talking about for a full day, 10 is probably fine.
If you're talking about night or multiple days probably at a far later age.

thalassa
04 May 2016, 04:38
I'll admit that I'm an advocate of starting small and building up. My kids started "staying home alone" around 5-6 for 10-15 minutes where Hubby or I would literally be outside the apartment building, and they would practice calling up on the phone. At 9 and 7, they are home alone for 20 minutes before they leave for the bus and for about 40 minutes after school, in which they do their homework together, have a snack, clean the litter boxes, and get ready for their after school activities. They also stay at home on school holidays that are not work holidays, but not over summer vacation (probably by next summer they can, or the summer after)...more because I don't want them inside playing video games for two months than because I think they can't be trusted alone (by the summer after next, they will both be old enough to go to the pool without a grown-up, and hopefully have enough manners to manage the library and fishing on the waterfront).

ETA: I stayed home alone all day, including summer vacation, by 9. I started staying home for an hour or so around 6/7 while my mom grocery shopped. And unlike my kids, I could go to friends houses and to the city pool and to the library, as long as it was with someone and I checked in and out with the neighbor. And did my chores first.

ETA2: I don't think any child should just BAM! start staying at home alone. It should be a progression that determines their capacity and responsibility. And the parent should be able to decide based on their own children. If you cosset and baby your kids, maybe that age is 14 (in some states, 14 is actually the legal age to allow a child to be home alone)--personally, how on earth anyone thinks a kid should go from *can't be trusted for 5 minutes alone* to *legally an adult, get the heck out* in 4 years is reasonable, is beyond me...but its a thing. But if you raise your kids with expectations and responsibility, they sort of get the hang of it. And, at least in my experience, my kids think its cool to be treated that way (more so the older one).

anunitu
04 May 2016, 05:12
With my kids(Me and my ex) about 11 or 12,BUT not because of deciding,it was a matter of scheduling. After my MIL died,it was hard having them out at ladies place who did about 10 kids. Not child care. When my MIL was still alive,she took care of them(she lived with us) The kids loved her. My own Mother I would never have watch them,she being a bit nuts.

Stardust
04 May 2016, 05:15
I was around 12 when my parents allowed me to stay home alone. My brother played sports and he would have away games that were several towns over. And when I was younger I hated going to those games. By the time I was 12 my parents decided that I was old enough to stay home alone for several hours while they went off to those games

faye_cat
04 May 2016, 09:42
I'm mainly with you, Thal. Build up small.

I've left my 6 and 8 year old in a locked apartment building while I've run to do laundry at the laundry unit (less than a minute drive away). Usually takes me 5-10 minutes. I've also left them inside the house while I've been outside.

by 9 or 10 they should be able to be at home for an hour or so, and by 11 or 12 they should be good for a bit longer. 13 or 14, a day (8-12 hours).

DanieMarie
04 May 2016, 12:00
I'll admit that I'm an advocate of starting small and building up. My kids started "staying home alone" around 5-6 for 10-15 minutes where Hubby or I would literally be outside the apartment building, and they would practice calling up on the phone. At 9 and 7, they are home alone for 20 minutes before they leave for the bus and for about 40 minutes after school, in which they do their homework together, have a snack, clean the litter boxes, and get ready for their after school activities. They also stay at home on school holidays that are not work holidays, but not over summer vacation (probably by next summer they can, or the summer after)...more because I don't want them inside playing video games for two months than because I think they can't be trusted alone (by the summer after next, they will both be old enough to go to the pool without a grown-up, and hopefully have enough manners to manage the library and fishing on the waterfront).

ETA: I stayed home alone all day, including summer vacation, by 9. I started staying home for an hour or so around 6/7 while my mom grocery shopped. And unlike my kids, I could go to friends houses and to the city pool and to the library, as long as it was with someone and I checked in and out with the neighbor. And did my chores first.

ETA2: I don't think any child should just BAM! start staying at home alone. It should be a progression that determines their capacity and responsibility. And the parent should be able to decide based on their own children. If you cosset and baby your kids, maybe that age is 14 (in some states, 14 is actually the legal age to allow a child to be home alone)--personally, how on earth anyone thinks a kid should go from *can't be trusted for 5 minutes alone* to *legally an adult, get the heck out* in 4 years is reasonable, is beyond me...but its a thing. But if you raise your kids with expectations and responsibility, they sort of get the hang of it. And, at least in my experience, my kids think its cool to be treated that way (more so the older one).

I didn't leave an answer for this reason. I think it's more of a gradual thing, and I more or less agree with your timeline.

I was allowed home alone by 10. I was even babysitting by 10 (for short periods of time). By 11 I was allowed to be alone after school and for the day.

To be honest, not letting kids spend a day by themselves until their teens sounds kind of insane to me. Almost no one waits that long here.

B. de Corbin
04 May 2016, 12:23
I have no idea...

I can't recall ever leaving them alone until they were old enough to drive away.

As far as wondering about, where we live, we had to drive them into town in order for them to actually BE anywhere. We're such hillbillies...

Kiesha'ra
04 May 2016, 13:16
I was babysitting at 12 on my own for neighbors. In my state it's illegal for a child to be "latchkey" unless they are 14 or above. It depends in my opinion on the maturity of the individual child

Medusa
04 May 2016, 14:00
I have no average age opinion. One big problem is that we are all basing it on OUR experiences as children in the world. And unless you are under 20, then that literally was a different world when we were children. A lot has changed to make children come off more mature. But all that technology also means there are many more ways for your kid to get perved or hurt now more than ever.

I would say it depends upon my neighbors and support system, where I lived, my economic status etc.

DragonsFriend
04 May 2016, 14:22
It all depends on the kids. My younger brother was back-packing for a week at a time before he was 9. At ten most of us were allowed out back-packing with partners. We started doing the family dishes at 8 and cooking family meals at 10 years old. There was no staying at home alone with three sisters and eight brothers. After the first grade we would be away from home as much as we could. During the summers, we could go after the chores were done, as long as we were back by dark.

callmeclemens
04 May 2016, 18:06
When my brother was twelve, and I eleven we were left home alone everyday between the hours of 8am and 3pm. We were old enough to know how to stay out of trouble, but I think I gained about 30lbs that summer stuffing my face all day.

DavidMcCann
05 May 2016, 09:27
In England the law just says that it's an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk of suffering or injury. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children recommends minimum ages of 12 for a "long period" during the day and 16 for overnight. Personally, I think people can be a bit too protective these days.

thalassa
23 Aug 2016, 16:50
I'm sort of necro-ing because I thought this was really interesting stuff: http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/08/22/490847797/why-do-we-judge-parents-for-putting-kids-at-perceived-but-unreal-risk

habbalah
31 Aug 2016, 02:28
It depends. Do you mean home alone for a few hours after school? For most of the day? Overnight?

Prickly Pear
31 Aug 2016, 07:00
I think independence has to be a gradually increasing thing, as the parent judges the child's development. This depends on an observant and sensible parent, though. For home alone, we would start with 15 minute intervals and worked our way up. For longer after school periods, I think a general rule is about 9 or 10. A little older for nighttime, because kids get scared. For all day- say parents working and child off for the day, I would say more like 12, again depending on the child. Then it gets tricky, because I think from 14 on, my kids would stay alive fine for a few days, but the temptation to do something stupid is pretty strong in the teen years. For venturing out on their own, it was a similar system; there were times when we encouraged independence, but were supervising more than they thought.

When my older child was in elementary, there were lots of other children in the neighborhood. There was an unofficial system in which there was always at least one parent in a front yard doing chores, or visiting with other neighbors in the front. This let the kids feel independent wandering the street, but there was always an adult paying attention. This kind of petered off as that batch of kids grew older, but it was really nice. We knew where the kids were.