WHEN CAN I LEAVE MY CHILD HOME ALONE?
There will come a time for every parent when they have to consider leaving their child at home alone. This often raises many concerns, in particular it poses the question of when is my child old enough, and what does the law state? There are no clear or defined answers to these questions, the law in the UK does not set a minimum age. It is however, an offence to leave a child alone when doing so puts him or her at risk (NSPCC). This is not necessarily the case for other countries around the world so it is advisable that you contact your local authority or children’s services to get the correct information.
By weighing up the following factors you can make a clear judgement about whether or not your child is ready to be left home alone:
- Can they be trusted to go straight home after school?
- Can they easily use the telephone, locks, and kitchen appliances?
- Can they follow rules and instructions well?
- Can they handle unexpected situations without panicking?
- Are they aware of potential dangers in and around the home?
When you decide that your child is ready to stay at home alone, it is imperative that they are given clear guidelines and that they are able to follow rules without question. They need to be aware that not only are they responsible for keeping themselves safe but that they are also responsible for keeping their home secure. Once you have set the ground rules, you need to make sure that your child understands them and agrees to them, and whilst you are away keep a written set of the rules placed somewhere in clear view for your child to refer to. For example:
- Check in with a neighbour immediately on your return from school.
- Never let anyone (other than those advised) know that you are home alone.
- Do not answer the door or the phone (Unless otherwise advised ie.. a family member or close friend).
- Lock the doors so that no-one can enter the house.
- Do not leave any windows open.
- Do not use any of the kitchen appliances.
- Carry a house key with you at all times and keep in a safe place.
- No friends to be allowed in the house.
A list of emergency contacts should also be included.
The use of CCTV within the home is now commonplace and a really effective way of monitoring what is happening in your absence, giving you the peace of mind that both your family and your home are secure. As technology evolves, new products become available and with the introduction of the smart phone and its ever-increasing features, it is possible to download apps that send information and images straight to your phone. IP CCTV is another technology that is being installed in many homes and much like the “Nanny cam”- so called because of its use by parents to keep an eye on their child carers- it’s a simple device that is installed within the home and can be accessed from a laptop, PC or phone from any location. These systems can be installed either in view or discreetly, which can be particularly useful if there is a suspicion of inappropriate behaviour.
There may be times when your child needs to be outside of the home whilst you are away, particularly going to or returning from school and it is at these times that your child needs to be aware of their surroundings and consider any possible dangers or situations where they might be putting themselves at risk. Try to find a reliable neighbour who is aware that your child will be at home alone. Ask them to keep a discreet eye on your home (and your child) and to call if they suspect anything inappropriate is occurring. This is another example where CCTV can be an effective tool. It can monitor the comings and goings of your child and highlight any other suspicious activity that may be occurring in and around your home. Not only does it allow you to keep track of what is happening in your absence, but it also acts as a great deterrent for unwanted visitors.
Modern mobile phones have a GPS (Global Positioning System) on-board and it is now possible to purchase software or apps that will enable you to keep track of your child’s mobile keeping you notified of their whereabouts at all times.
Leaving a child at home alone should not be a time for anxiety and concern; it is a part of growing up and should be a positive experience. There are so many technologies today that can aid this transition, allowing both the parents and child to feel confident about their security.
CHQ provides effective technical advice based on the understanding of your threats, the associated hazards and their potential. We provide advice and guidance for the security of people and property. Whether personal, commercial or industrial, CHQ have the solution.