how old should kids be to be left alone at home at all?

What do you think is the minimum age to leave kids at home alone? Obviously this isn’t a simple black and white question, so I’m interested in how your considerations of the kids personality / responsibility level, how long alone, how close neighbors are, what kind of neighborhood, what time of day, etc. come into play.

Also, if anyone knows what the law says about it in their own locality I’d be interested in that too.

Mine won’t be til he’s 18!

you rock, vanilla, me an my friends were always talking about how great it would be to have a teenage babysitter when we were 15/16.

Yeah, I would say never too…even if they are 19 that’s pretty iffy. If I had to I would lock the booze cabinet & take my car keys with me.

Our law here, I believe, says kids 12 and over are ok to stay at home alone for brief periods of time. As a matter of fact, most day care places won’t take them after 12 yrs old. A lot of girls begin babysitting at 12.

My kids began coming home on the school bus when the older was 12 and the younger 9. Not everyone’s kids will be ready at the same time. Factors coming into play in my decision: maturity level of my oldest; stay-home mom next door; safety of the neighborhood.

Now 17 & 14, my kids are well versed in emergency preparedness, kitchen do’s & don’ts, etc. So much so that when I recently stayed the night unexpectedly with a friend in the hospital, the kids ran things at home until I got back. They even got up and went to school.

No I am NOT making this up.:wink:

In Massachusetts, USA, the age at which a child can legally be left alone is 12. If a child is frequently or routinely left alone for long periods, and the child is under 12, the parents could be charged with neglect.

However, children under 12 are often left for brief periods while the parent goes out to run a quick errand, etc. Personally, I would say that by the time a child is 12, he should be able to stay home for an hour or two. And I would start the training at briefer periods and at younger ages.

This is all assuming a safe neighborhood, friendly and watchful neighbors, and during daylight hours.


It depends on the kid. My older brothers and myself were left alone with our younger brother when he was an infant…that means that we were probably 8, 10 and 12. But it was only for short (very short) periods of time, and we were all pretty responsible kids. Not that we didn’t do stupid things occasionally (ok, the time the 6 month old brother was dropped from another brother’s shoulders…but the parents were home when that happened), but we weren’t going to run off or set out to burn the house down.

I don’t know anything about laws regarding when kids can be left home alone - I don’t know that there are any. Child abandoment is different than letting the kid stay alone while you run to the grocery or something like that.

It’s 12 in Minnesota also.

LilMiss is (almost) 9. She is fine if I am making a quick trip to the grocery store. But to leave for an extended time? No. We have gone over the rules, have tested them (calling to see if she picks up), and she knows what to do very well. A pretty darned responsible kid, if I may say so.

Conversely, there is a neighbor kid, aged 11, who the ONE time she was left home alone for an hour, called 911 TWICE because she heard noises outside the door (an apartment building). That is NOT a kid would trust home alone.

As people above have said, it depends on the kid, the neighborhood, the time frame… there isn’t a “simple” answer.

It’s 12 in Illinois. My roommate’s kids were home alone and when they got home from school, the side door was open. The 10-year old freaked and grabbed every knife in the house and ran down the street screaming his head off. Needless to say, the neighborhood kinda freaked too.

I have no idea what the law is here. We made our decision about this based upon her demonstrated sense of responsibility. We started gradually - taking walks around the block and letting her stay in the house when she was about 6, running to the store when she was 7 or 8, and eventually going to dinner when she was 10 or 11. She started to learn independence and we got to have time together away from the kid.

She did the latchkey thing when she was 9. We lived in a very, very safe neighborhood at the time and her bus stop was about 6 houses down from ours. She let herself in, had a snack, and did her homework, and I got home less than an hour later. She knew the rules about phone calls and people at the door (which never happened in that neighborhood - especially when we left the dog in the front yard) and our next door neighbor was home in case of emergency.

She was in her teens the first time we let her stay home alone overnight. Now, at 17, she frequently spends 4-5 nights in a row by herself (with the doggies to protect her) when I go to Baltimore to see my husband. It’s easier now that she can drive - I don’t have to worry about stocking up on food for her, and she can get to work/school/volunteer work/friends as necessary. Even when I’m hundreds of miles away, she calls before she leaves home and when she gets back. She’s also allowed to have certain friends spend the night with her if she’s lonely. Plus the neighbor across the street is a stay-at-home-mom who’s always willing to keep an eye out.

Needless to say, had she ever violated our trust, we’d have changed the way we treated her. But she’s a good kid, and she never gave us cause to doubt her. As an added bonus, when she goes off to college, she’ll be ready to deal with taking care of herself. And isn’t that what a parent’s goal is: an independent child.

The law where we live says 9, and I think that’s a bit young.

We’ve left the 13 year old and the 10 year old alone for an hour or so while we run to the store during the day. Ivylad wants to go out to eat and leave them at night, but I’m not ready for that, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because it’s dark. I told him I could start getting used to the idea by leaving for an early dinner and coming back after sunset, gradually getting myself used to the idea.

They get home before I do, call me, and I tell them to lock the door and not answer the phone until they hear it’s me or Ivylad on the answering machine. Although generally Ivylad is home for them. Recovering from back surgery can be a bitch.

Depends on how responsible the kids are. I can see 12 as being a reasonable average, but in my case, I was ready way before that. By the time I was 9, my mom would leave me home to watch the three younger sisters (ages 3-8) while she’d run to the store or on other brief errands. At age 10, the Red Cross made a special exception for me and let me into their class for babysitters (the minimum age was 12). This was partly on the recommendation of several people I already babysat for. By age 11, I had a regular job watching three little girls under age 5 (one an infant). Their mom had no problem leaving me with them.

Lest you think my parents were terribly negligent, the truth was the exact opposite. We were well-disciplined in our family (my friends think my dad sounds like a drill sergeant in the Marines), and I was very mature for my age. My parents, the parents of the kids I sat for, the Red Cross instructors, and my Girl Scout leader all thought I was more mature, responsible, and prepared than most of the teenagers who were doing the same things I was.

Two of my younger sisters did not babysit or stay alone until about ages 12-14, because they were less mature.

Of course, we were bizarrely obedient children. Our parents would leave us as teenagers and go away on trips. We never threw parties or raided the (unlocked) liquor cabinet. I think this is because we knew our parents would catch us and would make life a living hell. A little fear is a powerful thing.

I think I was 9-10 when my parents started letting us stay home during the day alone for a few hours (siblings would’ve been 4 & 6). By the time I was 12, I was babysitting regularly and staying home with my siblings all during the daylight hours. Until I was about 14, my parents didn’t let us stay home at night, though. At 17, they took their first real vacation (delayed honeymoon) and left us home alone for a week. That was the first time they’d ever left us home overnight. None of us did anything crazy or any different than when they were home.

I’d probably follow the same rules, testing my kid like FCM did.

I know there were times when my kids were pretty young, maybe 7 - maybe 5. We would leave them home for the briefest trip, say driving the another kid somewhere. If the kid was watching a video, they essentially wouldn’t even know we were gone. Or if they were asleep, we might not disturb them just to haul them for a brief car trip. We tossed the dice and figured our car wouldn’t break down and the house catch fire as the axe murderer strikes during that specific 10 minute period.

I knew we were irresponsible parents. Nice to know we were (unknowingly) lawbreakers as well.

Now, the oldest is 14, and the youngest 11. They have been home alone for at least a year or two. That is the only use I have for a cell phone.

My son is 12 now, and spends a few hours a week alone at home. He seems able to deal well with it, and he’s coached on what to do in any questionable situation. This includes multiple phone contacts for him if needed.

I spent a lot of time on my own from seven onward. I don’t recommend it, but it worked out okay.

Wow. This all seems a bit overprotective.
My brother and I were always home alone for the first 2-3 hours after getting home from school from kindergarden onward. Our situation was probably different than most of you. My mom couldn’t afford daycare or a babysitter except for the occasional night out. We also lived in an apartment complex. The neighborhood wasn’t great but we lived in a small town in NJ anyway so it’s not the same as living in an apt complex in downtown Atlanta. We rarely got into any real trouble and weren’t usually a threat to burn the place down. Given the same situation, I don’t think I’d have a problem leaving a decently behaved 6 yr old alone for a couple hours.
I’m thankful, I’ll never have kids so I can’t really put much thought into this. My brother has 2 kids now and seems overprotective to me but his oldest is still only 3. This just further convinces me I don’t have any parenting instincts at all.

I was 10 when I could come home from school and be alone for the 2 hours until my parents got home. Around 12-13 and I had no more babysitters for their (rare) evenings out.

Assuming my (future) kids are of roughly the same maturity that I was at those ages, I’ll probably continue the “tradition”.

Oops for some reason I was thinking I started the first grade at 7 years old - I was actually 5… It was 3rd grade and 5th grade respecitively in the above post, so change my above answers to 8 and 10-11.

But you’d be surprised how quickly a disaster can strike…from the age of 10 on I got home about a half hour before my parents half the week (Dad worked a strange rotating shift) and I was fine by myself. However, the one time my mom left my kid brother and I home together(before I turned 12) for a mere half-hour, disaster stuck.

Blame my bladder but I, eleven years old, really had to go to the bathroom, and thought it was safe to leave my five-year-old brother in the yard for five minutes. I was wrong! He met me at the door, dripping wet, and wouldn’t let me go past him. Since he was terrified of water at that point, I was immediately suspicious. So I asked him why he was wet.

" Something bad happened." He told me. I asked him what. " Something bad happened to the pool." He said, meaning the 13 foot above ground pool he begged my parents not to put up. Apparently while I was in the bathroom, he climbed into the pool, ripped the ring that held the pool liner in off the pool, and climbed back out, only to watch the pool collapse…

Needless to say, my mother really regetted not taking us with her to grab the stuff she needed for dinner. It just goes to show that little kids can get into big trouble in minutes.

A recent report said that most teenagers were having sex at home. So my answer is when they are old enough to have sex. :wink: