My sisters and I were latchkey children. When I was 11 and my sister was 9, we would take the Metro bus home from our north Seattle Catholic school back to our home in the suburb of Brier. From the bus stop, we walked for about half a mile (we took a shortcut through the cemetery) before reaching our house, located in a quiet cul-de-sac.
My parents had to work full-time so we were usually alone from about 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. It never occurred to them to hire a babysitter at the time and we didn’t have relatives close by. I don’t remember having any problems – my sister and I made a snack, watched some TV, played the piano, did our homework, even cooked dinner. Although some of our neighbors thought it was weird and irresponsible that our parents left us home alone after school, we were pretty good kids and didn’t get into too much trouble.
The National SAFE KIDS Campaign, however, recommends that children shouldn’t be left alone until he or she is 12 or older.
Other websites on this issue caution parents to also consider a child’s maturity level. Most states don’t have laws that specify an age in which a child can legally stay home alone. While some parents leave kids as young as 9 or 10 at home unsupervised, others wait until their children are in their teens.
What do you think? How old should a kid be before he or she is left home alone? Any guidelines to follow? Any advice to make sure they’re safe?