21 answers

Age to Stay Home Alone or Watch Another Sibling?

I know there is no actual law in California, they kind of just leave it up to the parents. I remember I started babysitting my neighbor when I was 10 and she was 8. I have friends who leave their 7 and 8 year olds to run quick errands and others that don't leave their 12 year old. So when would you say it was appropriate to let a kid stay home alone and for what length of time. I have one super responsible rule follower and one who is much more free spirited but does tend to "step up" when responsibility is placed on her.

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In MI., a child has to be 12 to be left home alone. That said, a 12 year old has also babysat his/her younger sibling according to parents in my neighborhood. Personally, since I have twins, they will both be allowed home alone at 12.

I actually thought the legal age to leave a child alone for a few hrs. was 14 . old here in Ca. (I may be wrong)

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I can only give the point of view of the military. Kids aren't allowed to stay home alone for more than three hours until they're 12. At 13 they can stay home with one sibling for three hours with baby sitting certification. At 15 they can stay home for three hours with at most two other siblings, three with Red Cross certifications. Anything more than three hours/overnight they must be 17 and have current certifications in babysitting, CPR, and lifeguard.

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Wow ... very interesting! I live in South Africa and it's very common here for poor people to leave primary school age kids alone during the school holidays (because they can't afford camp or daycare). Also, with the very high incidence of HIV in this country it often happens that the parents die and a child as young as 14 gets "emancipated" to care for younger siblings. In the more affluent areas parents tend to hire babysitters until the kids are around 14 years old. My 2 are currently 19 and 16 years old respectively and I left them alone overnight for the first time last year. I'm a great believer in trusting your instincts (unless there is a law in place which you must follow). In South Africa we don't even have "babysitting classes"!

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Of course it largely depends on maturity and the neighborhood. I'm comfortable with leaving an 8 year old for a quick errand or a trustworthy 10 year old for a few hours (2-3) with the door locked at all times. By 12 I don't mind if they go outside to take out the trash or something.

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i say it depends on the child..and the parent too.. i was staying home by myself for an hour or two while my mom ran errands when i was 10/11 . my friends mom would leave us home with her 5 year old brother while she went out for a little while all the time no big deal, we were good kids, they trusted us ... my neighbors twins however are going on 13 with an 18 yr old sibling and the younger ones still go to camp in the summer because their parents dont want to leave them home alone

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I began at the age of 9 leaving for short periods of time (20-30 min), more by the age of 10 (1 hr building up to 2) and a few hours by the age of 11. In our town by age 11 most kids are in middle school and there are not after school programs. The Red Cross babysitting course is offered to kids starting age 11.

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There is no legal minimum age in California which is WAY scary. We are military and I can tell you that our rules like avncavwife said are outlined pretty clearly when you live on base. These standards also come with consequences if not abided by. I started to let my oldest stay in the house "by herself" a little at a time when she was 10 (1/2 hr to start then more as she got older). Teach them the rules and do little test as they get older and TRUST your judgement

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We leave our 13, almost 14 year old son in charge of our almost 5 year old son for a couple hours at a time. It's been like that for almost a year now. The oldest child has 3 other younger siblings at his mothers house. so he knows how to deal with younger kids and is responsible. I don't agree with leaving 7 & 8 year olds alone. But like other posters have said, a lot depends on the child.

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In CA if something happens while a child is alone or watching a sibling a parent can be charged with child endangerment, so just go with your gut. I truly depends on the child(ren) so there isn't a magic age. Also important to consider is how a child feels to be left alone...some love the responsibility, some are scared.

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i would leave my 10 and 14 year olds alone frequently when we were homeschooling and i had to work. they always had the option of coming with me, or networking with friends when available, but sometimes they just wanted to stay home and do their thing. they were really good responsible kids, we had emergency plans in place, and i was comfortable doing this.
obviously if we lived in a different sort of environment (we're rural) that could have changed.
it really depends on the kids involved, the family philosophy, and the living situation.
khairete
S.

1 mom found this helpful

Just had this conversation, I was starting to try 5 mins home alone with my responsible 8 yo. but i realized my husband took that as a sign that DS was ready to stay by himself for hours and i had to just shut that down. Once you start stuff like that it's so easy to just pile on more and more responsibility too quickly, so have a long term plan in mind. and be on board with your spouse.

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of course it varies from child to child depending on their maturity/responsibility level. but in general I would say around 12 or so. it is hard for me to decide since my boys are all still under the age of 3 so I have a long way to go, lol. I know my mom left me alone at home to go grocery shopping for about an hour or so at a time here and there. but back in the 80's it wasn't a big thing. of course, remembering some of the trouble I started, and twice I received some really nasty pervy phone calls, I think personally I would be hesitant to leave them alone before 12ish. hopefully as the grow up a bit more, i'll chill out!!

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I have left my oldest for an hour or so when he was 9. He is 13 1/2 and babysits for me. the longest he has babysat was 5 hours. It just depends on the maturity level of the child.

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How well can you predict your kids? and what they will or will not do if home alone?

Even if the doors are locked, they can go outside or unlock it themselves.
Some kids will, some will not.
Regardless of maturity or personality or type of neighborhood.

Can you predict that?

In TX it is illegal to leave a child under 12 alone. But if you have jury duty, you can only get out of it if the child is under 10!
As others' have said, it depends on the neighborhood and the maturity of the child. When I thought my oldest was ready, I started by leaving him for just a few minutes at a time. He was fine. But my younger son was different. The first time we left him, he set the oven on fire!

In Maryland-it used to be an 11 yr old could stay with siblings but you had to be 13 yrs old to sit for other children. It just depends on many things-even children with lots of training do the silliest/most dangerous things!

back when I was a kid I was babysitting at 10... other peoples kids, including infants. NOW a days with my kids. I would let one of my 3 - 14 year old nieces babysit. The other two, no way. I know them all to well. I would let my 15 year old nephew babysit, but not any of the others. I have no one I trust here, and I am leery of people now. My sister lets her 10 year old home alone for a while. My very irresponsible ex sister in law was letting her 8 year old home alone all night, till my brother put a stop to that, when I told him what she had told me.

The American Red Cross offers babysitting classes to kids 12 years old and older. Most places require that babysitters must be at least 12.

So, in my mind a 12 year old child can babysit and care for others, that means they better be able to understand home alone time and how to take care of themselves with experience.

It depends on the neighborhood, the quality of the neighbors, the structure of the home, etc...if the neighborhood is so bad that I would be afraid to stay by myself then a child would not be allowed to stay at home for even 5 minutes.

If the neighbors are not good friendly people that I would trust to help my child if there was an emergency then they would not stay home alone for very long and never at nighttime. 911 would be there in moments if there was a fire or someone trying to break in so I might consider leaving them while I went to fill the car up or grab some drive through food.

If the house is not in good shape, maybe some construction going on or it was exceptionally dirty, then the child would not be in a safe environment. They would not stay there then either.

At age 8, if the child is a responsible type, I might let them stay home alone while I ran to the neighbors for a visit, still in the direct neighborhood, while I was taking a walk, jogging around the block, etc...where I was still within ear range but allowing them to feel the freedom of being alone just to see how they handle it. They need to practice and see how it goes. It is not something you just let them loose doing.

My son is 9 and I could leave him but I never have. I think at 11 or 12 I'd be more comfortable. I guess it depends on your kids and how responsible they are.

I think this depends on the children involved. I was babysitting by age 12. But...my parents used to leave my 12 yo brother and 10 yo me home by ourselves and there were several times we drew blood because we just didn't get along. Are you leaving the older child in charge of the younger one? Does the younger one understand that the older child's rules are to be followed? Would they fight? Would they know what to do in an emergency? I wouldn't leave my 8 yo alone. She can't even be left alone in a room by herself without freaking out. Times are different now. No longer are we latch key kids in elementary school. You don't say how old your kids are. Maybe 12 you could try for an hour or so?

I actually thought the legal age to leave a child alone for a few hrs. was 14 . old here in Ca. (I may be wrong)

In MI., a child has to be 12 to be left home alone. That said, a 12 year old has also babysat his/her younger sibling according to parents in my neighborhood. Personally, since I have twins, they will both be allowed home alone at 12.

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