General Question

simon's avatar

At what age is it ok to leave your kids alone at home?

Asked by simon (308points) April 21st, 2008

My son is 14 and I “might” leave him home while I go to the store for groceries, but I take my daughter that is 11. Long gone are the days where my parents shoved me out the door in the morning and didn’t look for me until dinner time (hell I could have been anywhere). At what age/maturity do you think it ok to leave them home alone?

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19 Answers

Breefield's avatar

How much do you trust him?

ppcakes's avatar

my mom let me start walking home and staying by myself at the age of about 12, i think. She was a busy woman and knew i wasn’t getting into any trouble, my neighbor would come check on me after a few hours.
To test me she waited to see if i lost the key or not and all them things, but 12 was the age i was aloud to stay home alone.

judochop's avatar

Wow, what a good question! I have a daughter that is only seven and I know that the day is long off when I will leave her at home but I still think about it.
I know my folks would let me be gone during the day when I was only around age 8 or so just as long as I was home no later then 9pm.
I guess it depends on where you live and how well your neighbors know your children.
Eventually you will have to let go of the leash and my brother, I must tell you that I personally do not look forward to that day.
Parenting is such a gamble.
All you can do is your best and offer your best to your children which I am sure you already do.
I think 14 is ok but not 11, not yet.
Keep us posted as you give them more responsibility.

simon's avatar

I trust both of them not to open the door, answer the phone, play with fire or knives or do just about anything that any normal person would consider wrong or dangerous. And both know how to call 911 and/or cal me or anybody they know in an emergency (yes both have cell phones, but that is another thread).

Kids these days are way more mature than I was at the same age, other parents I know don’t think twice about leaving the kids alone for the night/evening. I find it…..crazy. Could just be me….

ketoneus's avatar

@simon. What has actually changed since you were a kid? Do you think kids are really different, or society is really different? Or, have parents just been influenced by the constant fear-mongering of the media?

I think this fear has not kept kids any safer. Instead, it has left them less independent and less confident.

Check out this article about a Manhattan mother that let her 9-year-old son find his way home using the NYC subway. Her blog can be found at

When I was in 3rd grade, my parents separated and we had to move to an apartment just outside our school district. My mom didn’t want me to have to change schools. As a result, I had to walk home 3 miles by myself every day. I loved it. It was a great adventure. I would stop for a snack. I’d play in the creek some days. Occasionally I’d get bored and walk backwards for a while. At no point was I in danger. Instead, I felt much more confident in my ability to take care of myself. This was 1986 in Dallas. I don’t think neighborhoods are any less safe now than they were then.

Trust your kids. They will make mistakes, but they will learn from them and be stronger as a result.

simon's avatar

When I was a kid it was never on the news about child abduction or anything else you may see on the news these days….it gives you pause sometimes (or it should). Now information is so readily available (you can find a registered sex offender in your area via the web) it’s a wonder any parent does not low jack their kid (lock them in the tower…no?-kidding). Now I’m not nearly as paranoid as you would think, maybe I’m different and the kids are the same? I just find it odd that parents with kids the same age as mine don’t think anything of leaving the kids alone while out on the town.

occ's avatar

I think it depends whether or not you have neighbors who your kids know and could turn to in an emergency. Also, how far away are you going and how quickly could you get home if they needed you. I think 14 is definitely old enough to stay home alone, and I would also say that 11 is old enough as long as they have speedy access to a trusted adult (a nearby neighbor, or you on your cellphone if you’re less than 10 min away) in case they need something or hurt themselves.

For what it’s worth, I grew up in an apartment building in NYC in the 80s and my mom left us home alone when we were very young, as young as 4th grade, if she needed to run out to the store and get something ( but not for whole afternoons or evenings, just short trips). The difference was that we knew all of our neighbors in the apartment building and as soon as anything went wrong we had lots of grownups to turn to, so it didn’t really feel like being home alone was scary or dangerous.

Things are even easier now because in the age of cellphones, they can reach you if they need you, and you can check on them if you need them.

I would say, ask your 11 year old daughter. If she feels ready to be left home alone, you can certainly leave her for a short trip if you need to run out and buy something. Especially if her 14 year old brother is home too!

ketoneus's avatar

Again, it boils down to fear-mongering from the media. The Justice Department claims there has been no rise in abductions between 1988 and 1999.

The media loves any story about child abduction…wait, I’m sorry. The media loves any story about cute white child abduction. It plays well and so they increase the hype.

I’m going to be a father soon and I’m going to do my best to not teach my kid to live in constant fear.

ljs22's avatar

When I was 12, I was babysitting for two neighbor kids all day during the summer. And they were terrors. But I managed and it was fine.

simon's avatar

@ ketoneus – Yes the fear is all in my head and not theirs, however I’m not conveying that to them (ie why do I have to go the the store, I want to stay at home and watch Jimmy Neutron…you’re going because I said so…now get in the car). The links you provided are quite interesting, thank you, but I can’t pull the trigger on leaving my kid in Brooklyn even if they wanted to be (might be tough since I live outside of Chicago). I’m really wondering if I’m more (way, way) over protective that the average parent.

Seesul's avatar

Several years ago, my dad took my mom to see the small rural house her father built and she grew up in. As they approached they saw smoke coming from the house. They raced to get there and pulled 5 kids from the house. The eldest was about 12 and had started a grease fire on the stove. A few years later, I took my mom back there and we pulled a charred brick from the fireplace that my grandfather had built. That was all that was left of the house. Maybe Simon has a point.

PupnTaco's avatar

Depends on the kid, but 12 or so sounds right.

Bri_L's avatar

Actually, if you have a cell phone and the level of trust your better off than when I was at 14 and my folks left me baby sitting for the night at that age.

I would just ad that you point out to your kids they don’t want to make it a widely known fact that you might leave him at home alone.

Your a good dad and your concern shows that. Trust that in your son and give him the chance to give you a reason not to trust him

occ's avatar

At age 12 I was already babysitting for other smaller children.

nocountry2's avatar

Yeah at age 12 I started my own babysitting business…I think it depends on the maturity of the child and the confidence of the parent in the child’s abilities. It wouldn’t hurt to do run-downs of emergency situations, maybe take a CPR/first aid class together, role play dangerous encounters and make sure emergency contacts are known and easily accessible, regardless of whether you’re leaving your child home alone yet or not.

anoop's avatar

Any age above 7 as long as you treat it like a privilege.

skfinkel's avatar

I think around 11 or 12 for being home alone. Being left alone in a house is different from having the responsibility to get around in a community on your own—which I think is okay for most kids at younger ages. I caught a NYC bus in the mornings from first grade on to get to school myself. I had to cross Madison Avenue, and I remember my Mother looking out the window and waving when I got across. I always wondered what would have happened if something bad had happened to me, but it always felt safe. Then the boys would chase us 15 or 20 blocks back after school. Even though it was New York, it felt like a familiar village—I knew each shop along those blocks.

berocky1's avatar

I have stayed home by my self for up to a day since I was six. And it all depends on the kids level of maturity and the willingness to be a lone.

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