• FreeAdvice has a new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, effective May 25, 2018.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our Terms of Service and use of cookies.

Latch Key Kid

Accident - Bankruptcy - Criminal Law / DUI - Business - Consumer - Employment - Family - Immigration - Real Estate - Tax - Traffic - Wills   Please click a topic or scroll down for more.



What is the name of your state?
I want to know what the legal age is for a child to be left alone after school.




I don't have the legal answer to your question, but I have an opinion.

Obviously, very young childen can't be left unattended.

But although there is a legal age, there should also be a maturity level. I mean some 8 year olds can be trusted to be latch-key kids, and some 10 year olds aren't ready.

Legal age aside, it really depends on the emotional maturity of the child.

Can the child:
-call 911 in an emergency?
-know his parents' work phone numbers?
-do simple household chores (you obviously don't want them eating Cheetos around the house all day)
-follow a fire plan or other household safety disaster plan?



My sister called CPS one time to see what the legal age was for a child to be able to babysit, and they said a child at the age of 13 can babysit alone for up to 3 hours, so maybe they would have the answer to your question as well.:)
Just an opinion here....

When my son was 7 and in 2nd grade, he was walked home from school by two neighbor girls who were 12 years old, one of which was the niece of a life long friend. They lived on either side of our house, and my life long friend's parents lived across the street. My son would come in the house (the girls would see him into the house). He would call me at work as he got into the house, while the girls were standing right there. He then had his chores to do, which was to feed the cat ( I intentionally left the bowl empty in the morning so the cat would want to eat right away) and clean out the litter box with the scooper. This would take about 15 minutes (lots of cat petting and cuddle time).

Then he would call me again to tell me he was done with that and to ask what he could have for a snack. Because I was so often so busy at work, the secretary (who occasionally baby sat for me) got into the habit of asking me in advance what his snack today would be so in case I was in the middle of something, she could tell him. He would eat his snack and do his homework and then call again. At that point he was free to put on the TV and watch cartoons until I got home, which was about 45 minutes after that. The total time he was home alone was about 1 1/2 hours on a bad traffic day.

But, he had the parents of a friend of mine since I was 8 right across the street, the older brother of my friend who had a stay at home wife right next door, another 13 year old next door on the opposite side and my mother 1 1/2 blocks away. So, while it seemed he was home alone, I would know from one of my 'sources' if he so much as turned the TV too loud.

Fast forward 5 years. He is now in 7th grade and 12 years old himself. And I am changing my hours so I am home by 4:00pm. Because at 7, I knew what he would and would not get into. At 12 going on 13, it is a whole different ball game. At 7, I didn't have to think twice about him getting on the computer. At 13, I have his screen name EXTREMELY limited. At 7, I had cable TV. At 13, we only get 2 channels because I cancelled cable.

In other words, just because a child is older, smarter and more capable, doesnt mean it is safer to leave them alone and unattended. Not to say that I dont trust my child, I am just a realist. At 7, his imagination was somewhat limited. At 12 going on 30, with hormones kicking in, well, you get the idea.

For the record, my son now babysits for my 3 and 5 year old nieces for an afternoon here and there and he is AMAZING with them. Attentive, patient, sweet and they absolutely adore him. And they will do whatever he says, including take naps without so much as a word of protest. It has actually become a family joke since neither one will eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich unless their cousin makes it for them. Well, sometimes they'll eat one for grandma, too.

Find the Right Lawyer for Your Legal Issue!

Fast, Free, and Confidential