At What Age Is It OK To Leave A Child Home Alone?

We posed the question to our readers, and they shared their advice and experience on the best age to leave a child at home alone.

As parents, our children’s safety is always our top priority. 
Whether it’s teaching them about stranger danger, making sure they wear a helmet when they’re cycling or ensuring they buddy up whenever they’re out and about, there are so many ways us mums and dads try to protect our kids. 
However, it gets a little trickier when they get older and start seeking independence.
 
And one of those big things is: at what age is it OK to leave kids home alone? A reader got in touch about a when it was right to leave her older child – an 11-year-old girl – at home alone. The mum wasn’t planning on leaving her for long – 30 minutes at most while she went for a run or to the shops.
We posed the question to our readers, and they shared their advice and experience on the best age to leave a child at home alone.
1. "I think at 12 a lot of people would let them walk home from school alone so I wouldn't see a problem if you'd to pop to the shop for 10mins. Then see how that goes but still wouldn't leave her for too long."
2. "I think 12 is a good age. I have 16, 13 and a 10-year-old. I still hate leaving any of them at home. Again you think: what if someone breaks in, what if the house goes on fire or what if they fall down the stairs...? But you can't control any of this. You have to teach your child to be a little independent. Always have a fire plan ect. I have a rule of no eating or cooking when I'm not there. No eating because of choking. I also always say which neighbours are home in case they need anything ect."
3. "I think it depends on the child and how independent they are and if you can trust them to not do anything silly. If she has a phone that can call you on if anything comes up and is comfortable I don't see why she can't be trusted for short periods."
4. "My daughter is just gone 14.last year. I left her in our house on her own while I went to town for the first time. I think it's fine when they start secondary school. Would never leave her on her own for long and never at night. I lock the kitchen door when I'm gone. I have a good neighbour which is handy. I tell her not to answer the door when I'm gone also - you don't know who's around these days."
5. "I think 12 is fine, however, it does depend on the child. Is she OK with it? Does she follow rules? Set boundaries and start with a small time frame."
6. "I don't see the problem - I was babysitting at that age. Once they're mature enough."
7. "If it's for 30min, I'd say about 11."
It is important to note, that while there is no law stating what age you can leave your child home alone parents can be prosecuted for neglect i.e. if it is judged they put their child in harm by leaving them home alone. 
The NSPCCoffers the following advice:  
  • Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
  • Children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to cope in an emergency and should not be left at home alone for a long period of time
  • Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight
  • Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone
  • A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this, regardless of their age
  • If a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older sibling
  • When leaving a younger child with an older sibling think about what may happen if they were to have a falling out - would they both be safe?
Written by Mary Byrne, Content Executive at Family Friendly HQ. Follow her on Twitter: @marybyrne321
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