How Old Should a Child Be When They Are Left Home Alone For the First Time?

New Jersey law doesn't specify an age when children are considered old enough to be home alone

Welcome to "Moms Talk," a weekly Patch feature designed to reach out to moms and families. New Milford Patch invites you and your circle of friends to help build a community of support for mothers and their families right here in the borough.

Moms Talk will also be the place to drop in for a talk about the latest parenting hot topic. So grab a cup of coffee and settle in as we start this week's conversation:

The National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that children be 12 or older before being left at home alone, for any length of time. New Jersey law has no mention of an age that is appropriate or inappropriate for leaving children home alone.

Bergen County's Department of Human Services offers a checklist for parents to help them make the decision about when is the right time for a child to be on their own without parental or other adult supervision.

If you have older kids, how old were they the first time they were left on their own at home? If you have younger kids, when do you see yourself being comfortable with leaving them home alone? Is there also a certain length of time or distance from the home that would affect your decision?

Tell us what you think in the comments.

Donna Colucci March 09, 2011 at 10:52 PM
I was just talking about this the other day. My daughter was 13 when she started watching her brother who was 11. Now some people I know think this is to young. I think it depends on the parent and the child. I felt comfortable leaving my kids. I used to work during the summer from 9-3 and I was fortunate enough to have my husband stop home a few times a day. Children need to have responsibilities at age appropriate levels. Babysitting is a huge accomplishment. It goes with the territory of being the oldest child. My daughter was 15 when she started to watch other children. However, when my kids were small, I wouldn't have a babysitter watch my kids who was younger than 17. I know I know, double standard.
Liz Reilly March 09, 2011 at 11:20 PM
In AZ it is 12. Under 12 and left alone, you are breaking the law and God help you if you get caught. They will arrest you. I have seen it! I started leaving Connor at home at 12 and to watch his brother who is 4 years younger. Now 13 plus he does even better and can cook a few easy things, but I still won't leave them alone at night (after 7pm). They are not allowed to answer the door or the phone (unless they see the caller ID says it is me or my husband) and they can't play outside. I was a latchkey kid at at 7 would get off the bus from school, pick up my brother at preschool, start dinner and wait for mom to come home at 6pm. Yes SEVEN years old. I won't let my 9 year old near the stove unless I am with him!
Tina Youngs March 10, 2011 at 12:08 AM
Like Danielle, I have left my daughter home at age 10 to take her brother to school if she was not going to school that day. I do not like the feeling of leaving her and make her keep the phone right by her side. My son is 7 and I would never leave him alone and I think he would cry if I told him I was going to do that. I guess I could agree that 12 might be a good age to handle some responsibility in being left home for awhile but certainly not at night.
Wendy March 10, 2011 at 01:02 AM
This is odd, b/c I read somewhere just this past summer that 12 was the allowable age to leave them in NJ.. I even forwarded the information to a friend of mine (I am now wondering what I read!) But you really have to know your kids.. My daughter is trustworthy enough to spend some short time alone at home, but I've noticed that she would call my cell phone and chat with me the entire time so I'm guessing she was simply not as comfortable as she led me to believe!! I do know one thing however-leaving my two home along together is a NO WAY for quite sometime. I can remember the crap my sister and I used to do to each other (one time resulted in broken wrist), and I am not ready to take those chances!!
JuliannaSmith January 23, 2012 at 04:27 PM
We want our children to enjoy life while they are growing, but many of us parents have doubts on that idea. I found this article on a blog it's all about safety application that works on a cell phone. Consider this one as a big help to every family. Check them out here http://www.tsue-thatswhatshesaid.com/2011/08/your-childs-safety-your-piece-of-mind.html


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