Mum sparks debate on appropriate age to leave kids home alone

In Queensland a child must not be left alone if they are under the age of 12. Source: Getty (picture posed by model).

Times they are a changin’. While it used to be the norm for parents to leave their kids at home for hours at a time, things just don’t seem as safe as they once were. 

It’s not easy to decide the right time or age to leave children home alone and many modern parents are struggling with the dilemma in the wake of horrifying news stories about child abductions and violent home invasions. 

Now, one mum has sparked debate by asking how old a child should be before you leave them home on their own. Posting on Mumsnet, the mother wrote: “Whats the youngest you would leave a child home alone to pop to the shops? I know everyone’s area is different so shops will be further away, but just looking for a general idea.”

The post generated plenty of responses, with many telling her kids aged eight to 10 were okay to leave alone, depending on their maturity level. 

One user wrote: “It depends on the child. I left DS [darling son] at 9 as he is really sensible but DD [darling daughter]  is 10 and I would still not leave her as she has no impulse control.”

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Another added: “I’ve recently starting leaving my 9 year old alone for 20-30 minutes whilst I drop younger DC to preschool. He has a phone and can call me if there is an issue.”

Read more: Mum slammed for arranging toddler-free holiday

While a third said: “Ds is 8 and I can leave him for 20 minutes to pop to the shop, wouldn’t let him out alone though. Totally depends on your child.”

And while most seemed to agree, others argued that the younger the kids are, the easier it is to leave them alone since they can’t “hurt themselves”.

One user wrote: “A friend of mine used to leave her babies to pop ten mins to shop, in their cots. Her theory was they couldn’t hurt themselves, so it was fine. She stopped when they could climb out of cots. (I’m not saying I agree with this!)”

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While another added: “I left dd in her cot asleep to pop out for 15-20 mins.”

But other mothers weren’t so forgiving, with one adding, “I hope that’s not true. If you want social services on your back then I probably wouldn’t do that.”

The laws in Australia are vague on this issue, with Queensland the only state or territory that specifies a child must not be left alone if they are under the age of 12. For the rest of the country, it’s up to the parents to decide what’s in their kids’ best interest. 

On Monday, a 10-year-old Melbourne girl was brutally mauled by a dog at her home after her parents left her on her own at the weekend. 

What do you think? How young can a child be left home alone?

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