Sooner or later, you’ll need to leave your child home—unsupervised, alone—for an extended period. And even though you may have smart devices to keep a constant check on your child, this doesn’t mean you can instantly teleport home in the event your smart security system relays a realtime video of a kitchen fire.
It’s one of the toughest challenges facing parents: At what age can they leave a child home alone without breaking the law, without endangering that child? Even if your child is older than the minimum age to be legally left alone, this doesn’t mean they’re ready to face this new chapter.
- A very emotionally mature, 10-year-old child may be very small for their age, and a crook passing by the house may peer in and think that a seven-year-old is all alone inside—making a break-in tempting.
- An eight-year-old may be the size of an 11-year-old, which could fool a prowler peering in, but having the mind of an eight-year-old won’t help in a crisis situation.
- Your feisty but responsible nine-year-old may be begging to be left home alone, have passed a first-aid test and be a junior blackbelt.
- Or, your skittish 13-year-old may be very bright, but…to put it succinctly, be a scaredy cat.
- Is the neighborhood popular with burglars?
- Is the child sick?
Laws are ambiguous. Just what is “adequate supervision” anyways? And is it redefined with different ages? Obviously, you don’t want to leave a nine-year-old alone for even one hour with the new, 95-pound rescue dog, or leave a young child home during a storm. A 12-year-old may seem old enough to be left home alone for a few hours, but not in charge of his two-year-old sibling.
The various U.S. states do not have clear explanations; it’s up to the parent to interpret each circumstance. And only three states specify the minimum age: Maryland is eight; Oregon is 10; and Illinois is 14 … even though many girls begin babysitting late into the night at age 11.
Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.