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? Every parent has to cross this bridge for the first time, and when they do, it can feel pretty daunting trying to figure out, first, whether or not it’s legal, and second, whether their child's ready for the responsibility.
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 cut-and-dry age minimum—instead, there’s a list of suggested guidelines to help you make the decision yourself based on subjective factors. You’ll want to consider important variables unique to your family situation: your child’s physical and emotional maturity level; how comfortable they are being left to their own devices; how long you plan to leave them alone; whether or not there are any younger siblings to consider; the safety of your neighborhood, and so on. (Find info on your state’s specific laws and guidelines by contacting your local child protective services agency.)
So, if you live anywhere other than Illinois, Maryland, and Oregon, it’s basically up to you (and your child) to decide when it’s okay to start letting them stay home without a you or a babysitter. In a survey by security company ADT, nearly 70 percent of respondents say the sweet-spot age for when kids can start staying home alone is between the ages of 12 and 15 years old. Only 3 percent believe you should wait until your child is at least 18 years old, and only 2 percent think a child of 7 years or younger is fine to be left unsupervised.
If you’re nervous about leaving your kids home on their own, the best way to ease anxiety is to make your home as safe and secure as possible and give yourself (and your family) peace of mind. Make a list of emergency contacts, show them how to lock 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 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).