When is it OK to let kids stay home alone?

Consumer Reports


(NBC News/TODAY) — Parents often wonder how old their children must be before they can leave them home alone for a few hours. A new survey of social workers suggests age 12 might be a safe time for many to start.

“Every child is different, of course, and every situation may be different,” said study author Dr. Charles Jennissen, a clinical professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City. “But overall these social workers say that kids really shouldn’t be home alone under the age of at least 12.”

When can children stay home alone?

In a nationwide survey of 485 members of the National Association of Social Workers, conducted from October to December 2015, the researchers asked several questions regarding what age would constitute child neglect if kids were left on their own at home for four hours.

Most states do not have laws or guidelines about when kids can be left home alone.

In a scenario where there were no laws and no one got hurt, almost all of the social workers said leaving 6-year-olds home alone was neglect, 83% said leaving 8-year-olds home alone was neglect and 51% said leaving 10-year-olds home alone was neglect.

By comparison, 11% of social workers surveyed said leaving 12-year-olds home alone was neglect and just 1% of respondents said leaving 14-year-olds home alone was neglect, according to the results scheduled to be presented Monday at a meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in New Orleans.

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