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When can I leave my child home alone?

At the time of this writing, in Michigan, there is no state law that specifies a safe age for children to be left home alone. However, if leaving a child home alone puts him/her in danger, it is considered an offense punishable by law.

Other state requirements may vary, please check with your local police department for suggestions. Currently, Illinois & Maryland have laws addressing this topic.

At TotSafe, we believe no child under the age of 12 should ever be left home alone, even for a short period of time. The number of children ages 12 and under that are injured in the home each year is too great to put these kids at risk. Please contact your government representative today to request an age/maturity limit to help protect innocent children from being left at home alone.

So how is a parent to know when it's safe to leave a child home alone?  Here are some guidelines (Check with your local police department to find out if laws exist in your area):

  1. No child under the age of 8 should ever be home alone - not even for a few minutes.

  2. Children ages 8-10 should not be home alone for more than a short period (1 hour) and only during daylight or early evening hours.

  3. Children ages 11-12 should not be left home alone for more than 3 hours or in circumstances requiring inappropriate responsibility.

  4. Children ages 13-15 may be left unsupervised, but not overnight.

  5. Children under the age of 13 should never be in charge of younger siblings or other children.

  6. Some children should never be left unattended depending on their maturity level.

Children who are left alone must understand:

  1. Their full name,

  2. telephone number,

  3. address

  4. How & when to call emergency services.

  5. Potential household dangers and how to combat them. (If left alone they should know not to use the stove, how to use a fire extinguisher, etc.)

  6. Stranger safety -- they must be trusted to never open the door for strangers, not tell people that they are left alone, etc.

  7. Instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency.

  8. Where you're going and when you'll be back.

Alternatives to keeping your child from being left home alone:

  1. Take your child with you - trips to the grocery store, etc. can be a great chance to discuss all sorts of topics that are on your child's mind.

  2. Get an appropriate babysitter -- and check references!

  3. Leave your child with another adult family member or trusted neighbor.

  4. If you're working and your child will be left home alone between school and when you get home, enroll your school-age child in latch-key programs, church before & after school programs, etc.

  5. Partner with a neighbor to exchange babysitting duties.

The decision to leave your child home alone is an important decision that should be considered with your child's safety as the priority.

Some things to know according the Safe Kids Worldwide:

  1. In the year 2003, approximately 1900 children ages 14 and under died in the home from accidental injuries.

  2. Each year, there are an estimated 3.4 million visits to hospital emergency departments by children ages 14 and under for injuries that occurred in the home.

  3. In 2003 approximately 350 children ages 14 and under died from fires and burns in the home. (Most children, instead of escaping a fire will try to hide in a closet or under a bed. Thousands of fires are started each year by children).

  4. An estimated 580 children ages 14 and under suffocated in the home.

  5. Other causes of death in the home include falls, poisonings, and unintentional shootings.

Thinking of leaving your child alone in the car while you run in to pay for gas or pick something up quickly at the store? Think again....

Have you ever headed out of the car and suddenly realized that you've forgotten your child in the car? That's precisely what happened to a man in Washington, DC March 23, 2006. He got onto the mass transit train heading to work - during his commute he suddenly realized he had forgotten his 7 1/2 month old daughter in the car. He got off the north bound train, and boarded the southbound train. Others had noticed the little girl in the car and firefighters had already removed the girl from the car by the time the man returned. The man is charged with leaving a child under the age of 8 unattended in a car or building and faces up to $500 in fines and 30 days in jail. Thankfully, the little girl was unharmed and was given back to the custody of her mother. Children should never be left alone in a vehicle unattended. Not only do vehicles heat up and cool down to extreme temperatures quickly, but have also been stolen with little ones inside or put into gear by children.

Never leave your child alone in the car.

Important Points

  • Some states have laws about children home alone.  Check with your local government/police department
  • Thousands of children die every year from accidents in the home
  • Children left home alone have more screen time
  • Children should never be left alone before they can be trusted to know what to do in an emergency
  • There are many alternatives to leaving children home alone
  • We believe no child under the age of 12 should ever be left home alone