Monday 14 March 2016

Is It OK To Leave a Child Alone?

Is it OK to leave a child alone? If so, for how long? Is it against the law?

I was watching BBC breakfast this morning and was horrified to hear that there had been over 500 arrests of people leaving children unattended. The age range of the children was from 6 weeks to 15 years.

The law doesn't give an age when it's OK to leave them alone but the NSPCC  says that all children are different and that parents should use their judgement and not leave a child who is at risk. They continue to say that some children are old enough at 13 but others are not even at 15 years old. Babies, toddler and young children should never be left alone.

I was appalled that a baby of 6 weeks was left alone although in some ways they are probably not as much at risk as a toddler or 5 year old. Who would leave their baby alone? I just could not imagine it.

So is it OK to leave a child alone?

I must admit that I have left one of my children under the age of 15 alone. My son was in High School and very sensible. He wouldn't open the door, cook food or have hot drinks when alone. He had a child-minder that I paid for and lived in the next street but he felt he was too old to be there with the toddlers and his sister who was 5 years younger. So I let him stay at home.

I bought an answer machine so he could hear who called before answering and had strict instructions that he only answered the phone to his child minder, his father or me. There was no internet in those days so I didn't need to worry about what he was doing on-line. Day time TV was also very tame and so this wasn't a worry either.

He didn't give us a moments worry. He knew he could call his child-minder and she would be there in a flash, or he could go to hers. At his age I would have been out with my friends playing in the woods, the park or swimming. We used to get up and go out all day and come home when we were hungry. He was not at risk.

My daughter....that's totally different! She would have burnt the house down or opened the door and let strangers in. She might have decided to bake a cake, go to town by herself or wander to a friends house. She was not left alone.

Is It OK To Leave a Child Alone? Three boys running across a field in black and white

Only two generations later and now we keep our children close. They don't play outside and if they do an adult is always there. They don't build dens or jump across streams without adult supervision. No riding bikes down dangerously steep hills or using rope swings across abysses.

When I was young it was just as dangerous. There were paedophiles and child murderers. Children didn't play alone, they played in groups and there were adults about. Mothers who didn't work. Fathers who worked outside. They may not have their own child in sight but would not hesitate to help someone else's child or question any adult that was loitering near children playing. There were many eyes watching us but we just didn't know it.

I wasn't left alone at home because my mother was there but I played in woods with my friends. Built dens, jumped streams, rode bikes and more. Babies were put into a pram and put outside the front door to sleep in the fresh air

My son played in the street with friends.

My grandson will probably not play outside with his friends without an adult.

What do you think? What age is it OK to leave children alone?



  1. Tricky - obviously babies, toddlers and young children shouldn't be left. Once in their teens it very much depends on the child. I think mine were about 13; I felt that if they were old enough to walk down the street to High School without me then they were definitely old enough to be in their own home for an hour. As you say, the law gives no guidance...

    1. I agree. My son was at high school and very sensible. Some children are just abandoned to get on with it regardless of their ability. So sad.

  2. I do think like every other aspect of life modern children are far too molly coddled and fretted over. I also feel we stop them from thinking for themselves and assessing the dangers by not letting them play in woods or cycle down steep hills, children learn to be safe by assessing the risks and making the odd mistake.
    I remember being as young as 7 and staying with my grandparents and going off to the rec for the day with a packed lunch with my 8 year old sister, paddling in the river and crossing the roads by ourselves. We had to be home for 4pm and were gone for 7 hrs at a time and nobody batted an eye lid.
    I was doing paid babysitting at 10 yrs old, no I would not have left my kids with a 10 yr old, and allowed my eldest daughter to babysit at 12.
    Back when me and my children were young the community did look out for you, you would go into other houses for a pee, or a piece and jam or a drink of water. Nobody had an issue with somebody giving you a hug if you fell over, or sticking a plaster on a sore knee, or holding your hand if you seemed lost. People are far to scared to help other children these days as they are scared of repercussions. My grandson will be 10 in April and his mum will not allow hi out to play by himself, though I do let him wander to either end of the road if he is here.

    1. Society has a lot to answer for. There is so much blame and guilt. I think people were tougher when I was little, maybe because they grew up during the war and knew what danger really was. We'll never go back but maybe children now just wait until they go to university or off on a gap year to have the adventures we had at 7 or 8.


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