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20 June

Home alone - when's the right age to leave kids at home unsupervised?

Submitted by:
Michael Grose
More and more kids are spending time alone after school according to a recent study.

One in 10 working mothers admitted they left their children home alone until they returned from work, according to a study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies released recently.

There are a range of factors children should consider before leaving children at home alone for long periods of time. These include length of time away; distance from home; availability of trusted adults; and whether children are alone or an older child has the responsibility of caring for a sibling. It's no always a cut and dried issue.

However as a general rule it’s not in the best interests of kids to leave them on their own devices after school for long periods of time.

As children grow and mature they benefit from gaining more freedom from their parents, which shouldn’t be confused with lack of supervision.

Ideally parents would leave children home alone in small doses to begin with to 'train them up'. For example, a parent might start out by going next door for just half an hour."

Kids shouldn’t be left unsupervised until their secondary school years. Even then many benefit from having a caring adult in the vicinity to talk with, and help them process their day.

Leaving kids home alone has ramifications for their well-being. They often need someone to talk with. In the absence of a parent, kids can often turn to peers, or share their thoughts through social media.

Unsupervised kids are less likely to do prescribed homework and reading, and more likely to spend excessive time in an online space, watching TV or playing computer games. Nothing wrong with this in small doses, but left unsupervised kids can get lost in these activities.

Lack of supervision is also a safety issue. Children may have the capacity to look after themselves, but they generally don't yet have the life experiences or skills to deal with things that might go wrong.

Increasingly, we are finding more kids left alone for long periods of time as more parents work, and the costs of caring for kids increases.

What are your thoughts?

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