The question that I am asked every day at work, by multiple parents and children, is “How old do children have to be, to be left home alone?” In class, I always start by asking the students what they think. They usually have a wide range of answers, based on what they have ‘heard’, or on what they think. I get answers from as young as, 7 years old, up to 18 years old. They can have some pretty comical reasoning behind their answers.
The real answer is, that there is no actual magical number that makes children eligible to stay home alone. There is no law in Ontario that states a certain age. The Child and Family Services Act states that; a person who has charge of a child less than 16 years of age cannot leave the child without making provision for his/her care or supervision that is reasonable under the circumstances. The Children’s Aid Society recommends that children be at least 10 years old to stay home alone. However, this age is not their only recommendation. There are a few other things that need to be considered, before giving a child such a big responsibility.
First off, you need to consider the maturity and responsibility level of the child. At 10 years old, some children are very responsible and do very well at following guidelines set out by their parents. There are many others however, that may not be ready at 10 years old. Many are too nervous to be left alone, or cannot yet be trusted to keep themselves and others safe, without adult supervision.
Children left without an adult need to have access to a phone. They need to be able to contact 911 if necessary. Many families now are opting out of the traditional home land line, and are instead switching to cell phones. If there is no land line in the home, an alternative way for the child to contact 911, must be arranged.
We also highly recommend that the child has an emergency back-up person. A person that the child can contact, that will be able to get to the child within 10 minutes. At this young age, when a child is first starting out staying home alone, there are many situations that may arise, that the child may need assistance from someone. This assistance may not require a 911 call, but may still be a situation that they need immediate adult help, and/or supervision.
It is also recommended that children of this young and vulnerable age, only be left home unsupervised, for a short period of time, during daylight hours, and not overnight.
Truly, this is only the tip of the ice berg, of things to consider, before you leave your child at home unattended. In the Seconds Save Lives – Home Alone & First Aid course, we discuss many situations in how to help keep children safe and happy when on their own. We discuss things from; how to keep themselves busy, and what to do if they are hungry, and on a more serious scale of; what to do if they were choking, or what to do if there was a fire in the home. It is our belief, that after completing our Home Alone course, children will become more confident and knowledgeable, on how to handle many situations that they may have to deal with, when being home alone.
Seconds Save Lives