Eventually, all parents must make the decision to leave their children home alone. It may be for a short period while running errands, a couple of hours after school, or a full day of work. Before you consent to let your child stay home unsupervised, you must first make sure that he is ready and that you have proper security measures in place.
Determine if Your Child is Ready
The first step is to determine whether or not you can legally leave your child home without a parent or caretaker. The Department of Health and Human Services released a fact sheet entitled “Leaving Your Child Home Alone,” which states “Only three States currently have laws regarding a minimum age for leaving a child home alone. Illinois law requires children to be 14 years old before being left alone; in Maryland, the minimum age is 8, while in Oregon, children must be 10 before being left home alone.”
Children mature at different ages; just because your child is over the legal age in your state does not necessarily mean that he or she is ready to stay home without a supervision.
Ask yourself the following questions to determine if your child is ready:
- Can my child follow the rules of the house while I am away?
- Can I trust my child to follow instructions, such as “come straight home after school”?
- Can my child use the appliances, locks, and security system?
- Is my child afraid of staying home alone?
- Is my child able to handle emergency situations without panicking?
- Is my child informed of emergency procedures and contact numbers?
Provide a Safe Environment
Once you have determined that your child is responsible enough to be unsupervised, make sure that you are maintaining safety in your home environment.
You're maintaining a safe home if:
- You have a home security system installed, and your child knows how to use it
- All doors and windows have working locks that are regularly maintained
- All doors have a peephole to view whoever is on the other side
- The exterior of the home is well-lit at night
- There are no empty boxes for electronics or other big ticket items left on the curb
Empty boxes for electronics or other big ticket items left out in front of your home can make you a target for burglary. The Bureau of Justice Statistics states “From 1994 to 2011, the largest percentage of completed burglaries consistently involved the theft of personal items (such as clothing, furs, luggage, briefcases, jewelry, watches and keys) and appliances or electronics (such as TVs, DVD players, and portable electronic devices).”
Invest in a Home Security System
The most important thing you can do to keep your child safe when you are not home is to invest in a home security system. In the event of an emergency, the system alerts the proper authorities, giving you peace of mind. Some security systems also offer the ability to monitor your home remotely. The ADT Pulse system allows you to watch live video of your child from your mobile device.
With mobile security features, you know whether or not your child is following the rules of the house. You can make sure they came right home after school. And you’ll know if they have had anyone in the house or if they played video games prior to doing homework. A security system like that allows you to continue parenting your child even when you are not at home.
Determine if your child is mature, provide a safe environment, and invest in a home security system to safely leave your child home alone.