What is the minimum age to leave a child home alone?
Most states do not have a minimum age. However, in states that do have a minimum age it ranges from 8 to 14. In Indiana, there is no minimum age, rather the answer is "it depends". According to the Indiana Department of Child Services brochure appropriately titled "Home Alone", "[t}here is no right answer for every child. There is no magic age when a child suddenly becomes responsible and mature. But there are ways to evaluate your child’s capabilities in order to make a more informed decision."
The brochure includes some interesting statistics:
- Nearly 4.5 million children ages 14 and under are injured in the home every year.
- The vast majority of unintentional injury-related deaths among children occurs in the evening hours when children are most likely to be out of school and unsupervised.
- Children are most likely to be victims of violent crimes by non-family members between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
- Violent juvenile crimes triple between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m
Lastly, the brochure offers a "self-test" of questions and issues for parents to consider. The questions include:
- Is your child mature enough to be home alone?
- Can your child handle fear, loneliness, and boredom?
- Is there a responsible adult nearby—a relative or a neighbor—who your child can call for assistance?
- Does your child know emergency procedures?
- Have you reviewed fire escape routes?
- Is there a first aid kit available, and does your child know how to use it?
- Does your child perform everyday tasks such as fixing a snack, dialing the phone, and writing messages?
- Does your child regularly solve small problems without assistance, knowing when it’s okay to ask for help?
- Does your child manage conflicts with/among siblings without adult help?
- Is your child comfortable with the idea of staying alone?