This Is When Kids Are Old Enough to Stay Home Alone, According to Moms (and the Law)
Security company ADT polled moms for their take on leaving kids at home unsupervised—and the majority agrees on this sweet-spot age.
How young is too young to leave your child home alone? At some point every parent has to cross this bridge for the first time. And when they do, it can feel daunting trying to figure out, first, whether or not it’s legal, and second, whether their child is ready for the responsibility.
In a survey by security company ADT, nearly 70 percent of respondents agreed that the sweet-spot age for when kids can start staying home alone is somewhere between the ages of 12 and 15 years old. Only 3 percent of survey-takers believed parents should wait until their child is at least 18 years old, and only 2 percent thought a child of 7 years or younger is fine to be left unsupervised.
Only three states legally require kids to be of a certain minimum age to be left on their own for a period of time: Illinois (14 years old), Oregon (10 years old), and Maryland (8 years old). But in most states, there’s no law specifying an age minimum—instead, many offer a list of recommended ages and suggested guidelines to help you make an informed decision yourself based on subjective factors, from behavioral to environmental. So technically, if you live anywhere other than Illinois, Maryland, and Oregon, it’s up to you (and your child) to determine when it’s okay to start letting them stay home without a you or a babysitter.
Before letting your child stay home alone, you’ll want to consider important variables unique to your situation: your child’s physical and emotional maturity level; how comfortable they are being left to their own devices; for how long you plan to leave them alone; if there are younger siblings to consider; and the safety of your neighborhood. (Find info on your state’s specific laws and guidelines by contacting your local child protective services agency or visiting its website.)
If you’re nervous about leaving your kids home alone, the best way to ease anxiety is to make your home as safe and secure as possible to give yourself (and your family) peace of mind. Make a list of emergency contacts, show them how to lock all the doors and windows, make sure they know not to turn on the oven or stove while you’re gone, and get a trusted neighbor to check in on them. If you have no choice but to leave your (old-enough) kids unattended at home for long stretches of time, it’s absolutely worth investing in a home security system, especially one with video capabilities (a feature favored by 74 percent of ADT survey respondents).