At what age is it OK to leave children home alone?

When is it appropriate to leave children at home by themselves? 

There's no right or wrong answer to the question, which parents answer differently. 

The National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left at home alone, but individual states have laws and guidelines that require children to be of a certain age before being left alone.

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A graphic uploaded to Facbook by Mique Provost, blogger and founder of the site Thirty Handmade Days, offers some insight.

This is especially helpful over the summer.  I was just chatting with friends about it.  What are your thoughts?...

Posted by 30 days on Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Provost, who wrote in a blog post that she started babysitting for other kids when she was 10, is one of many who say times have changed. 

"Now it’s just not that way," Provost wrote. "I think it’s for a combination of reasons -- scarier world, more aware, unsafe situations, media, etc -- but things are definitely different. That means that leaving kids home alone isn’t as common as it once was too."

The "Guidelines for leaving kids home alone" graphic suggests that children 7 and under should not be left alone for any period of time, children 8-10 should not be left alone for more than 1.5 hours, children 11-12 may be left alone for up to three hours and teens 13-15 may be left unsupervised, but not at night. Only 16- and 17-year-olds may be left unsupervised "for up to two overnight consecutive periods." 

"I was babysitting, at night, when I was 10," one commenter wrote. "My son has been babysitting his siblings since he was 9... It all has to do with maturity, preparedness and trust. Kids are not being allowed to grow up and learn responsibilities like we were when we were younger, as well as previous generations. I am scared when this generation hits the magic age of 18 and have to figure out how to be alone for even an hour."

"I'd never leave my 9-year-old daughter alone," another commenter wrote. "Not even for half an hour. She is mature, but I'd still not do it! It would play on my mind constantly, and if anything happened to her, I'd blame myself."

Most commenters said the decision to leave a child at home alone should be gauged by maturity rather than age.

Many people made reference to differences in responsibility among older generations and younger generations.

"Every child is so different," Provost wrote.

Provost also offered other questions to consider for parents considering whether or not to leave their children alone: 

  • How long will you be gone for?
  • Does your child follow directions?  Will they go by the rules while you are away?
  • Are there other kids left home too?  How many and how old?
  • How safe is your neighborhood?
  • Would your child feel safe staying alone?
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