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At What Age Can A Child Be Left Alone?

Who are the latchkey kids?

home alone children kids Millions of American children let themselves in or out of empty houses and supervise themselves for an hour or more each day. Called "latchkey kids" because of the telltale key around their neck or in their pocket, they are usually children of a single parent home or a home in which both parents work. The number of latchkey children is expected to increase as more women enter the work force and as more families experience separation and divorce.

How old should a child be?

Although it is generally agreed that a young child in primary school should not be left alone, age is not the only consideration. Some children might function well at home alone, while others might not be ready to assume the responsibility of self-care. Parents must make an informed decision based on their own child.

In order to be left alone, a child should want to assume the responsibility, should not be afraid to stay alone, should be able to follow directions, and should be able to solve problems independently. Factors such as the amount of time the child will be alone, the accessibility of a parent or another adult in case of emergency and how safe the neighborhood is, should also be taken into consideration.

How can a parent know if a child is ready to be left alone?

The simplest way is to ask the child if he or she wants to stay alone. Most children will answer truthfully. Signs of a child's fearfulness about being left alone include turning on all the lights, having the radio or television on full volume and suffering from nightmares.

How long can a child be left alone?

The time should be kept to a minimum. For older children, three hours per day is probably the absolute maximum. Parents should come home as soon as they can and postpone errands until they can take the child with them. Check with your states laws on when and how long a child can be left home alone.

Can a child be left with an older brother or sister?

Most child development experts agree that no child younger than ten can effectively supervise other children. It is recommended that when an older child is left in charge, all children in the family should be instructed about self-care and be made individually responsible rather than relying on the oldest child to carry responsibility for the others.

What should a parent do to make the latchkey kid experience work?

The experience should be a positive one, reinforcing the child's sense of independence and competence, and minimizing fear and anxiety. Above all, it should be made clear that the parent is in charge, whether physically present or not. A carefully considered set of rules and back-up systems should be developed and discussed with the child so that he or she is aware of what is expected by the parent. The main issue for a parent in deciding if a child can function as a latchkey kid is whether he or she is capable of following agreed rules, completing homework, and accomplishing chores.

How can a family get organized for the latchkey arrangement?

Some families have an initial family conference to discuss the arrangements. They set up house rules, discuss expectations, write down a daily schedule, divide chores, prepare a master phone list, and choose a contact person such as a neighbor or relative to call in case of an emergency. After the conference, the house is organized so that the child can take care of needs such as meals, snacks, homework, entertainment, laundry, and other personal needs. Have regular meetings to discuss changes in schedules, to plan television time and talk about fears and concerns. Don't hesitate to change the rules or a planned schedule that isn't working.

This information provided by the Mesa, Arizona, Police and Fire Departments.

Articles About Latchkey Kids

Home Alone Children Calling Program

Database Systems Corp. (DSC) is a technology company that has been in business since 1978. DSC has developed several call processing solutions that are ideally suited for community notification and alert services.

One of the most important solutions developed by DSC is its CARE (Call Reassurance) telephone service. The CARE telephone reassurance system calls elderly residents or home alone children. These calls are made to ensure the well-being of these individuals.

CARE systems have been installed and operational at many law enforcement and community service organizations throughout the country. These systems primarily check-in on the welfare of shut-in seniors, but also to check-in on latchkey children.

DSC develops and markets these community notification phone systems, but also provides individual calling services for parents who wish to enroll their child into our automated calling program.

How Do I Enroll My Child?

DSC provides an easy and secure sign-up procedure (For a quick overview, please visit the registration information web page). Everything can be done using our Latchkey Kids website.

  • Online Enrollment - Sign-up online using our secure website.
  • Child's Profile - Specify your child's profile (window of time to make calls to your child).
  • Name Contacts - Identify who we need to contact if we can't reach your child.
  • Secure Payment - Choose one of several enrollment and payment options and pay online using Visa or MasterCard.
DSC provides online and phone management of your account. This lets you view a history of the calls. You can also manage the dates and times for these calls including vacation days.

Plus our service is performed automatically - there are no operators involved so we can ensure your child's privacy.

CARE Information

Contact DSC to learn more about our CARE home alone children calling service and phone systems.

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