When is it OK to leave kids home alone?

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Now that school’s out, a lot of parents have to figure out what to do with their kids while they’re at work.

Or do they? And how do you know when your kids are ready to be left home alone?

In the early 80s, as divorce became more common and more parents went to work, there were an estimated 3 million so-called “latchkey” kids in America. Experts called it a disgrace.

It’s hard to find accurate statistics for 2019, but it certainly seems attitudes have changed. There have been numerous stories about parents being arrested for allowing their kids to walk to the park, or elsewhere, on their own.

Texas, like most states, has no laws defining when parents are allowed to leave their kids alone. In fact Maryland, Illinois and Oregon are the only states that set a specific age when parents can leave their kids home alone.

The SafeKids campaign recommends never leaving a child under 12 home alone. And even then, they recommend assessing your child’s maturity. They say a mature 12-year-old might be better equipped to stay at home alone than an older, but less mature kid.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says parents may be okay leaving kids alone once they hit 11 or 12-years-old. They also recommend a trial run where you leave for a short time but stay close by in case something happens.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry doesn’t give a specific age when it’s safe to leave kids alone. They recommend parents consider a number of factors including:

  • The child’s understanding of your rules and expectations
  • Do they know how to get in touch with you?
  • Hazards in the house or neighborhood

There is some debate about how the lack of supervision in the 70s and 80s affected those children. Some say it made them more independent. Others say it has given rise to the overly-protective “helicopter parents” of today.

But why the change? Why are parents, who may have been left alone as kids, so reluctant to leave their kids?

Experts say it may be the media and technology.

Houston-based psychiatrist, Dr. George Glass told CNN that parents see many more stories about kidnappings and other violent crimes today than they did in the 70s and 80s, making them feel like the world is more dangerous than when they were kids.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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