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How Young Is Too Young to Be Left at Home Alone?

A 10-year-old, who was home alone when two men broke into his house in Lawrenceville, Ga. on Friday afternoon, has received national acclaim for his handling of the situation. But was 10 too young to be home alone?

As reported in , a 10-year-old boy from Lawrenceville, Ga. was home alone Friday when two men broke into his home. Christopher King has received national acclaim for the way he handled the situation. The cool-headed fifth grader hid under a bed and called 911. Despite being terrified when the men entered the bedroom he was hiding in, King was able to give the 911 operator enough information to guide police to the right address and arrest one of the suspects. The other suspect is still on the loose, but all the stolen goods were located in the woods behind the home and returned to the family.

praised King's actions, with GCPD Cp. Jake Smith saying in a press release that King, "kept calm and contacted police while keeping himself out of harm’s way. His level-headed attitude, and the preparation he had received from his parents, served him well."

However, this again raises the question, is 10 old enough for a child to remain home alone? There is no specific law in Georgia that governs this; however, the Georgia Department of Human Services gives the following recommendations on its website:

  • Children under 8 years old should never be left alone, even for short periods of time.
  • Children between the ages of 9 and 12, based on level of maturity, can be left home alone for brief periods of time.
  • Children 13 and older can generally be left as babysitters, with the exception of children in foster care. It is not recommended, however, that 13 year olds babysit infants, small children and children that require special attention due to medical conditions.
  • Children 15 and older can be left home alone overnight, depending on the level of maturity of the child.

Other safety precautions to consider when leaving a child unaccompanied: Don’t leave the child responsible for food preparation that involves the stove; have a neighbor or relative check in regularly or have the child check in with an adult; make a safety plan that includes 911, and rehearse it with your child.

What do you think? How old is old enough for a child to be left home alone and unsupervised?

Racer X July 29, 2012 at 12:38 PM
The Georgia Department of Human Services' guidelines sound about right to me. Laws needed? That's a toughy.
Sharon Swanepoel July 29, 2012 at 12:52 PM
I think this young man is a perfect example of why laws on this issue are, as you say, a toughy. Every time I see this story with Christopher King speaking, I am so impressed and proud that someone so smart is finally representing us on the national stage. I don't know that I would have the presence of mind to react as well as he did. I think he's shown us that it is not an age that should be the guide, but a level of maturity - which I think he obviously had it. I'm sure his parents are terrified at the thought of what could have happened, but who knows what could have happened to a 15-year-old, 20-year-old or 70-year-old in that same situation. Way to go Christopher, we're proud of you!
Racer X July 29, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Absolutely, good job Christopher!
Raven Nichols July 29, 2012 at 03:23 PM
I wrote a Moms Talk column about this last December, and it has some really interesting (and surprising) statistics about how many kids of all ages are left home alone. http://snellville.patch.com/articles/moms-talk-leaving-kids-home-alone-e42adfda
Charles Wesley August 25, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Under 12 yrs. old is a No-no. And please don’t say that kids are "smart", "mature for their age", whatever, they are kids period. If you leave them alone, it could be at your own peril "parents".

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