A recent thread on parenting forum Mumsnet sparked a new debate on the subject, after one mum asked what other parents would do if their eight-year-old wanted to stay at home alone.
While it isn’t against the law to leave a child at home on their own, it is an offence under government law ‘to leave a child alone if it places them at risk’. This leaves the decision open to parents to judge when the time is right for their child to be home alone.
Taking to the forum, the mum in question explained that she normally takes both her children in the car with her when she drops her youngest daughter off at Rainbows. However, her oldest daughter, eight, ‘has said a few times that she’d like to stay at home whilst I take [my other child] in the car.’
‘Would it be unreasonable to leave her at home?’ she asked other parents on the thread. ‘I’m out of the house for 15/20 minutes at the most.’
She went on to explain: ‘I haven’t done it yet, but I’m wondering if she’s old enough to be left at home alone if she hasn’t finished her tea or is watching a TV programme that she doesn’t want to miss?’
The question divided people who responded on the forum, with some saying the decision was ‘non negotiable’ and there was ‘no way’ a child that young should be left alone at home, while others revealed they too leave their eight or nine-year-olds home alone.
‘Yes I would and I do (leave my 8 year old for short periods of time), as long as she knows the rules,’ read one response, while another parent added: ‘I started leaving my DD for short times like that this year, once she’d turned 9 which was about half way through year 4. It’s all part of building her independence, preparing her for when she starts secondary school.’
However, other parents disagreed. ‘Not at 8. Far too young,’ wrote one person with others agreeing: ‘I don’t think I would… They’re still little really.’
Another parent said:’8 I think is a bit young if you are a car drive away. If you are walking to neighbours or corner shop no roads for 15 min its fine (She can come and get you) but not a drive away – think my daughter was 10 before I did a drive trip with her home alone.’
The NSPCC advice on the question of ‘Should I leave my child home alone?’ is as follows:
• children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time
• children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight
• babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
What do you think? Would you, or do you, leave your child home alone? At what age did you first let your child stay at home on their own? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments box below.