My mom had just started working as a nurse and I got out of school hours before she got home from work. So, I was given a key and dropped off via carpool (I went to a private Catholic school) and was left to my own devices until she came home. I was a little over 9-years-old. Eventually, that changed and I walked to my Dad's new house, which was only a few blocks away from school, and hung out with my brothers (they are all older than I ranging from 1 year to 6 years older) until my mom came and picked me up after work. I'm fairly certain this was an every day occurrence until I started 9th grade and walked to and from middle school back home.
Nine was definitely too young for me, and I remember being left alone when I was 8 as well, but that was occasional. Being home alone really was unnerving for me particularly since I didn't really have too many neighbors around to keep an eye out for me. I'm glad I had an alternative to go to after school as I really didn't enjoy being home alone in a huge house. It was scary for me and I spent the time totally unproductively, watching TV and eating crap. Well, not real crap, just junk.
When I look at my almost 8-year-old son today, I know he wouldn't be ready to be alone for that long day after day, but then again, he pretty much can operate on his own for hours on end without interacting with us. However, I think that's only because we are in the house and he feels comfortable because of that fact. On the other hand, I would also trust him to be alone for 30 minutes or an hour if I needed to go out and do something. This has never happened - I don't think I've ever even left him in the car alone for more than 3 minutes. So, I always wonder - what's appropriate?
Some states have laws about what the minimum age you can leave a child home alone is. Georgia makes it pretty clear what the law is. Between the ages of 9 and 12, you can leave a child alone for up to two hours. Age 12 and up, no more than 12 hours at a time. In South Carolina, there are no set laws, but officials say no child under 8 should be left alone. Other states have no set laws at all.
I found some statistics that were really interesting. The most recent U.S. Census report shows that 7 million of the nation's 38 million children ages 5 to 14 are left home alone regularly. For example:
- 600,000 5- to 8-year-olds fend for themselves.
- 3.4 million children are under the care of siblings.
- The average time "home alone" is 6 hours per week.
- Higher-income parents are more likely to leave kids unsupervised.
So, what about you? How old were your children when you left them home alone? Or, alternatively, how old will your children be when you plan on letting them stay alone?
How old were you when you were left home alone? I know it really depends on the child's personality, but are we over-cautious these days or has not much changed in the last 40 years?