How young would you leave your children home alone and for how long?
A mommy blogger came up with a chart to help other parents determine when their child is old enough to stay home alone and for how long. She details the ages, the times, state guidelines and questions to ask before you step out.
We wanted to know what parents think. We set up a chart at the Florida Aquarium and asked parents with children of all ages to weigh in.
“I would say 12,” said one mom.
Another dad said older. “I would say 13+,” said Brandon Moore.
The chart filled up fast in the columns for age 12 and 13+. Some even wrote in “never.” Parents said those were easy picks.
Tony Huntley has two teenage daughters and a younger son. He says 14 is the right age.
“She knows how to call the police, she’s actually trained in CPR and she’s done a lot of life-saving skills so I’m not too worried about her,” he said of his 16-year-old.
“The rest just aren’t ready to make decisions in case of an emergency,” one mom explained about selecting age 12.
Other parents had a hard time.
“12’s an even number. I like that. You’re in middle school, right? That’s a good age. I don’t know. I don’t know,” a dad to two girls admitted.
Finding parents willing to leave younger kids home alone for any amount of time took us some time.
“Definitely not 8 or 9 I would say. I mean, my oldest is 8 and I would not leave him home alone now,” Cynthia Okopski told us.
Another mom said 9 works for her family.
“I have a 9-year-old. I leave her for a half hour or an hour if I have to run and grab another kid.”
The youngest option on our chart and the youngest we heard from parents was 8-years-old.
Amanda Bruce-Wagner says that’s when she first left one of her children.
“That was the youngest that I was comfortable with one of my kids, but there was another kid that was 10 before I felt comfortable with him staying home alone.”
Her kids are now 14 and 12 and stay home most of the day. She says she started at age 8 and left them for short periods of time until it built up to several hours.
She and other parents who leave their children never leave them overnight and almost every other parent said they never leave their child alone when it’s dark. They say only during the day or early evening.
Another mom of a 9-year-old boy says figuring out the right age is something she struggles with. She wants to be able to leave him, but isn’t ready and wasn’t sure of the legal age.
We found out that Florida does not have set age when children can be home alone, but the Department of Children and Families recommends age 12. They also have questions parents should ask of themselves and children and safety guidelines to follow.
Parents say those are things they made sure of before leaving their child home alone for the first time. That includes making sure their children knew emergency numbers and contacts, letting neighbors know that their children were alone, checking in by phone, setting ground rules and making sure their children knew escape plans in case of emergency.
“You make sure they know how to use the house phone. You have neighbors, you let them know when you're leaving and what to do if anything happens, after an hour or two hours check in,” Ana said.
An 18-year-old with her mom and dad at the aquarium says she was left alone for the first time at 13. Her mom’s rule: “Don’t burn the house down!”
Mom countered saying, “ I wanted to make sure no cooking, making sure she didn’t let people in and just making sure she was ready to be home alone, knowing like 911 and how to run and hide.”
All parents agreed what’s right for one kid might not be right for another.
“It was my decision. It evolved one day and there wasn't any particular day; It's just he's 10 and we just now started to try that out as a trial run,” Jamie Borja said about her son. As for her 8-year-old daughter she said laughing, “She’s 8. We got some time left and some trust to build.”
The bottom line we heard from more than 70 moms and dads: They know their children best. They’re the experts.
“Maybe I’m just overprotective. I just want him to be safe,” said Brandon Moore.