When can children be allowed to roam on their own

I live in Toronto. I have a ten-year old son who will be going to Summer Camp this Summer. To get home from Summer camp, he would have to go to a subway station located directly outside the place he’s going, travel one stop, then change trains, then travel 6 stops, then go about 300 meters to get to his sitters. He’d be doing this in the middle of the day; at about 12:15. He’s made this trip with me hundreds of times, so there is no chance of him getting lost or worrying about the right subway to get on.

What is the age at which children can do this (there is no way I’m letting him do it this year)? While it is true I’m in a big city, it is one of the safest big cities in North America, and it is in a particularly safe part of town.

Yes, most of the members of the straight dope were told to be home when the street lights came on, and we all survived, but things have changed.

What is the standard age (more or less) at which a child can safely make that trip alone?

When YOU think he is ready.

Well, obviously. I was kind of looking for broad guidelines about how other people had dealt with it, though. Sort of reality-checking my range. I’m guessing about 12, but was looking for input.

Things have changed. The world is MUCH safer now; crime is way down from when we were kids. Unfortunately, due to a 24 hour news cycle and such, people’s perception is that the world is much less safe. That is simply, factually, untrue.

I know! It’s amazing. Crime has fallen dramatically, the speed limit on the street he’d have to cross is less than 25 mph, police presence is almost certainly greater, and it still worries me. The way my parents raised me would qualify as “child abuse” now (okay, that’s hyperbole, but I’m not sure by how much).

By “things have changed”, I didn’t mean that the world was less safe (I’m well aware that it’s more safe), but that parenting standards have changed. I’m trying not to turn into an over-protective helicopter parent, while still sticking with the basic mores of society.

It really depends on your particular kid. How mature and responsible is he? I could have done it at 7 or so, but my 13 year-old could’ve only done it in the past couple of years. He now could and does ride the bus by himself all over town. I’m not a big fan of kids that young having cellphones, but in this instance I’d be for it.

Well, this mom let her 9 year old ride the New York Subway alone. As can be expected a whole bunch of parents freaked out and the kid managed just fine. http://www.nysun.com/editorials/why-i-let-my-9-year-old-ride-subway-alone

I don’t think it’s a different world than when we were kids except for the parents…

This this this!!!

At 10 I was allowed unsupervised anywhere I could walk to in my neighborhood (an approx 1 mile urban square). I took the public bus myself starting around 11 (I used to go to my orthodontist appointments after school – bus ride to 6 block walk), and probably the subway around the same time. By 14 I took the subway to high school every day. My brother took the public bus to middle school as well, so he also started at about 11.

Brooklyn, circa mid-1980s (crack is wack, yo!).

Public transit is indescribably safer for children today.

Edited to add: I just remembered I used to take 2 buses home from my horseback riding lessons, and I was in 4th grade so I turned 9 at the end of the school year. They also let me cross a multi lane, busy traffic circle on horseback, but that’s another story.

I’m not American, but I would let a 10 year old do this.

This is what’s throwing me. I know the world is safer. And that realistically, there is no chance he would be hurt. Hell, the subway platforms are under near-constant video surveillance. And, not to put to fine a point on it, it’s in Canada. It’s the TTC. The only problem he’s going to encounter is that the subway will take a long time. I really do worry more about him crossing the street than anything else, and that’s because he’s short.

I had to walk with other kids to school…when I was in kindergarten. After that, I was on my own (although I never left the sub-divison to get to school). By grade 5, I had several square miles of national forest I was allowed to play in.

That article captures it. Realistically, I know that this is safe, but there is a visceral feeling that I find hard to shake.

Neither are most Canadians.

granted I grew up in the suburbs (though within literal walking distance of Detroit) I was usually given the command to “go outside” when I was a kid. I don’t recall specific ages; hazy memory puts this starting at around when I was 8. The one thing was not to cross the main drag (Harper Ave.) alone. I don’t have kids, so I know it’s easy for me to say, but the vast majority of people out there are no danger. it’s partly because the .1% (or whatever) who are batshit that makes them so media-friendly.

I’m with Erma Bombeck on this stuff. Don’t let 'em out of your sight until they are at least 35.

You know what really used to be different? Parents used to accept that their children would have at least one mishap, and make at least one mistake. These were called “learning experiences.”

I’m not nearly as scared of Stranger Danger as I am of some well-meaning neighbor with a different threshhold for acceptable risk calling DCFS on me.

Crime may be down. I’m not sure the same can be said for overzealous caseworkers who can decide if I may keep my kids.

OP, 12 was about when we allowed it, living in the not-great-but-not-awful corner of Evanston, IL. It was when he was ready, in that he had proven himself pretty handy at handling a crisis and he convinced me he knew enough of the local geography to find his way home if he got misplaced. I noticed it was also about the same time my schedule just go so tight I was going insane as his chauffeur. So it was time for us both.

Yeah. And as a single father, I always feel I have to err on the side of caution.

Thank you. I’m sort of leaning toward next year. He’d be 11 1/2, and I’m thinking about how to gear up for it.

I was thinking around 12 also. You’ve got time to start quizzing him a little…“What would you do in this situation?” “If such and such happened what would be your reaction?” Let him take the lead in getting around and just observe how confident he is. (Don’t freak if he does something less than smart and safe. Tell him what he could have done.)

He’s got a good dad.

I would, tho, continue the sitter even after he’s getting there himself. During transit he’ll be occupied. If he just went home to stay, unsupervised, well…the best kids in the world can find something to get into. If I had it to do over I would have had my kids supervised until they were old enough to get an after-school job. Really. (Maybe it was just mine but I’ve got a few horror stories.)

One example: once my older son and another neighborhood kid (early teens) who stayed alone decided to climb up on the roof of our two-storey house and see if they could walk along the peak. We heard about this later.

It had never occured to me to say “…and don’t climb up on the roof.” :smack:

ISTM that if they’re alone at home after school, they do much better than if they have siblings or friends with them. I wouldn’t have gotten into nearly as much trouble at home alone if I hadn’t had cohorts.

On the flip side, there’s Leiby Kletzky. Of course, one could convincingly argue that the reason that case got so much attention was precisely was because the odds of such a horrific thing happening were exceedingly low, but that’s probably not much comfort to Nachman and Itta Kletzky. I bet they never forgive themselves for letting him walk alone, rational or not.

My parents let me ride the Metro by myself for the first time when I was 13, but I think that was a little late and I could have handled it a year or two earlier.

I let my kids walk to their grandmother’s house (about 1 mile) when they were 10 or so. There was a fairly large group of kids who walked straight down the neighborhood’s main street, so that each kid only walked a block or two alone after they turned off it. By 12, my son was taking two buses to get home. By 14, he was taking a series of trains to high school on the other end of Queens, and my daughter was taking the train to her high school in Manhattan. There were a few kids in grade school with very overprotective parents who were suddenly expected to travel around the city for high school when they had never traveled their own neighborhood with an adult. I don’t know how they did it.

Try to ignore that feeling- it really never goes away completely and it has more to do with your anxiety than your son’s safety. Above children are now 21 and 22 , and I still get that feeling