My music-loving/concert-going friend Duffy is getting desperate to go see a show this weekend.  He wonders aloud on his blog:

When IS it safe to leaves the kids home alone?


It depends on (ahem) what band is playing!

No, that’s not the answer.  Believe it or not, some states have regulations dictating what age a child must be to be left home alone.  Five states have specific laws (Maryland and North Carolina say 8 years old and Illinois says 14), nine states provide guidelines (for Kansas, it’s 6 years old!), and the rest, including Pennsylvania, provide no restrictions.

So, looking to state governments isn’t very helpful.  Instead, we need to turn to a trusted organization that provides commonsense recommendations:  Safe Kids Worldwide:

Developmentally, children are generally ready to be home alone around the age of 12 or 13. However, children develop at different rates, so use your own discretion, within the boundaries of the law, to determine your child’s maturity level and capabilities.

For example, if you have an impulsive 13-year-old who is a big risk taker, you might be hesitant to leave him or her alone. On the other hand, a thoughtful 11-year-old who has a good track record of following household rules might be ready.


New York Times Motherlode blogger KJ Dell’Antonia thinks 12 years old is “wildly overcautious”:

I had a key around my neck in first or second grade, and was allowed to come home and watch cartoons in the afternoon (after checking in with a neighbor) while my mother was in college and doing her student teaching. I survived and thrived on the independence.


Dell’Antonia asked her readers their opinions before concluding:

I disagree with drawing a black age line between capable and not. I remain with those who consider the circumstance and the child before making a call regarding how and when children should be left alone.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t commit to any age, either.  Instead, the department’s factsheet counsels parents to ask the following questions before deciding on whether or not it’s safe to leave children alone at home:

  • Is your child physically and mentally able to care for him- or herself?
  • Does your child obey rules and make good decisions?
  • How does your child respond to unfamiliar or stressful situations?
  • Does your child feel comfortable or fearful about being home alone?
  • How long will your child be left home alone at one time? Will it be during the day, evening, or night? Will the child need to fix a meal? If so, is there food that can be prepared without using a stove to minimize the risk of fires or burns?
  • How often will the child be expected to care for him- or herself?
  • How many children are being left home alone? Children who seem ready to stay home alone may not necessarily be ready to care for younger siblings.
  •  Is your home safe and free of hazards?
  • How safe is your neighborhood?
  • Does your child know how to lock or secure the doors? Does your child have a key to your home or a plan if he or she gets locked out?
  • Does your child know what to do if a visitor comes to the door?
  • Are there other adults nearby that you trust and who are home and can offer immediate assistance if there is an emergency or your child becomes fearful?
  • Does your family have a safety plan for emergencies? Can your child follow this plan?
  • Does your child know his or her full name, address, and phone number?
  • Does your child know where you are and how to contact you at all times?
  • Does your child know the full names and contact information of other trusted adults, in case of emergency?


The factsheet also has some advice for parents, including:

Don’t overdo it. Even a mature, responsible child shouldn’t be home alone too much. Consider other options, such as programs offered by schools, community centers, youth organizations, or faith-based organizations, to help keep your child connected and involved.


I guess Duffy and The Clash have a dilemma:

Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So you gotta let me know
Should I stay or should I go?


I might be going to this show solo.