Dr. Gellner: How do you know if your child is old enough to stay home by themselves? It's a tricky question that we will discuss today. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner for The Scope.
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Dr. Gellner: So how do you know if your child is old enough to stay home alone? Is there an age that's acceptable? Are there laws? The answer to the age and laws is yes. In the state of Utah, there is no age limit. There is no law about when you can keep your child home alone. There is a lot of debate on this topic and each state has different laws and suggested guidelines.
Not long ago, may preteens started babysitting younger kids when they were as long as 11 themselves. Kids used to play outside all afternoon until it was dark and not have to really check in. Times have changed over the years. It's not that way anymore. That's for a combination of reasons. It seems to be a scarier world, people are more aware, there are some unsafe situations in neighborhoods. The media has definitely gotten everyone more aware of this.
That means leaving kids alone is not as common as it once was. Age is a factor, but age isn't the only thing to consider. Every child is so different. Some things to consider are: How long will you be gone for? Does your child follow directions? Will they follow the house rules while you're away, like not opening the door for strangers? Are there other kids left home too? How many other kids and how old are they? How safe is your neighborhood? And how safe would your child feel staying home by themselves?
Some guidelines include that children under the age of seven may not be left alone for any period of time, children eight to 10 years may be left alone for about one and a half hours and only during the daylight or evening hours. Children 11 to12 may be left alone for up to three hours during the day, but not late at night. Children ages 13 to 15 may be left unsupervised, but not overnight. Children who are 16 or 17 may be left unsupervised and, in some cases, up to two nights.
Safety tips when your child is home alone include needing to know your full name, their address and telephone number. You should post an emergency list with local and long distance numbers to call in case of emergency to reach family and friends. You may need to let your neighbors know that your child may be home alone if you trust your neighbors to keep an eye on them. You can call your child several times while you're away and make sure they're safe. Make sure your child knows how to lock all the doors and windows and make sure your child knows not to go into other people's homes, including the neighbors without your permission or the neighbor's permission. Designate a safe house to run to if the child feels like he or she is in danger by anyone entering the home.
Teach your child kitchen safety and what is and is not okay when you're not home with them. Before you actually leave your child at home alone, you should review a few more things with your child. Remind them of the house rules. Be specific so there is nothing left unsaid. Remind them about the safety of not answering the phone or door unless it's you, not just someone they think they know, but it has to be you.
You don't want to give them too much information to scare them, but you do need to have an open conversation to make sure that they are comfortable being left alone and you are comfortable leaving them alone. Again, this goes back to is her or she ready. Only you as parents and your child can make these decisions.
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