Latch-key kid safety
Up to seven million kids are regularly left home alone, and for many working parents there’s no option to do otherwise. What can you do to keep your child safe when you’re not there?
Keeping latchkey kids safe
Up to seven million school-age kids are regularly left home alone, according to the Census Bureau – around 15% before school, 76% after school and 9% at night.
The safety implications are frightening – statistics show that each year around 4.5 million children are injured in their homes. Unsupervised latchkey kids are also more likely to do poorly at school and to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking, alcohol abuse, drug-taking and teen sex. And as well as being more inclined to commit crime, they’re also more likely to be the victims of crime.
There are laws in regard to leaving children home alone, and most experts recommend not doing it before your child is 12, not doing so at night and not leaving a child under 16 in charge of younger siblings. Despite all this, for some parents there’s no choice – work commitments mean they can’t be there for their kids once school’s out. So how can you work out whether your child is ready and ensure his safety when he’s home alone?
Signs your child may be ready
- She’s self confident and not inclined to panic if things don’t go to plan.
- She’s open with you and willing to talk about things that might be bothering her.
- She’s not easily-led by her peers.
- She knows her full address and phone number, and your work contact details.
- She knows how to dial 999 and can recognize when she might need to do so.
- She follows directions well and doesn’t need constant reminders.
- She’s trustworthy when it comes to staying inside and not answering the door when you aren’t there, even if her friends call by.
Keeping her safe
Even if your child is ready there may be environmental factors you need to consider before letting her stay home alone.
- Is your neighborhood safe?
- Is her bus stop near the house and does she have an easy, well-lit and traffic-free route to your home?
- Are there any neighbors close by that she can ask for help if there is a problem?
- Is your home equipped with safety features such as deadbolts, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide alarms and a first-aid kit?
- Is she going to be home with younger siblings?
- Will there be a dog in the house with her?
Home alone safety tips
Ease her in gently by popping out to run a local errand for half an hour or so.
Place a clear list of emergency telephone numbers near the phone.
Tell her where you will be and how you can be contacted – and leave your cellphone on.
Get her to call you at work to let you know she is home from school.Make it clear what’s off limits For example, you may prefer that she doesn’t watch TV or surf the Internet when you aren’t there to supervise.
Show her a few simple first-aid measures, such as cleaning and bandaging a scrape or cut.
Remind her never to tell anyone who phones or calls at the door that she is by herself in the house.
Drum it into her that if the smoke or carbon monoxide alarms sound she must leave the house immediately and call 911 from a neighbor’s phone.
Leave her a cold snack or a meal that can be easily reheated in the microwave.