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When Is "Home Alone" Okay?

Parents often wonder if when it is okay to leave children without adult supervision. During the summer, there may be more opportunities for children to be left home alone. During the school year, one in three adolescents will return home to a house with no adult present.

Child experts generally agree that eleven or twelve is the age at which parents can consider allowing their boy or girl to stay home alone. Unsupervised children may exhibit higher levels of fear, stress, loneliness and boredom; miss more days of school; and have lower academic scores. They are also more likely to experiment with sex and drugs than kids who aren’t left by themselves for long periods of time.

The Georgia Department of Human Resources urges caution and vigilance when leaving children home alone. Although Georgia does not have regulations about this, there are state guidelines for leaving a child without adult supervision.

  • Children under 8 years old should never be left alone, even for short periods of time.
  • Children between the ages of 9 and 12, based on level of maturity, can be left home alone for brief periods of time.
  • Children 13 and older can generally be left as babysitters, with the exception of children in foster care. It is not recommended, however, that 13 year olds babysit infants, small children and children that require special attention due to medical conditions.
  • Children 15 and older can be left home alone overnight, depending on the level of maturity of the child.

The Basics

  • Does he know his full name, address, and phone number? Does he know your full name as well, and the address and phone number of your workplace, or other ways to reach you at work?
  • Is your child is afraid to stay home alone?
  • Is your child able to call or text you when he gets home?
  • Does he have an established routine to follow so he knows what he is supposed to do and where he is supposed to be?
  • When he returns home from school every day, does your child know to lock the door behind him?
  • Have you instructed your child never to enter your home if a door is ajar, or if a window is open or broken?
  • Have you talked about what to do if someone knocks at the door while he is home alone?
  • Is she allowed to have friends over? How many? Same-sex friends only?
  • Which activities are off-limits? (Consider purchasing parental-control tools for TVs and for computers linked to the Internet and setting limits on television viewing.)
  • Is she expected to complete her homework and/or certain chores before you get home?
  • Have you left information about your itinerary, including when you expect to be home?


  • Make sure your child knows how and when to call 9-1-1.
  • Make sure your child knows how to contact you in an emergency. Post your work and cell numbers (even if your child knows your cell by heart, if they are injured or panicked, they might forget).
  • Make sure your child knows what to do and who to call in the event of a fire, a medical crisis, a suspicious stranger at the door or other emergency.
  • Make sure your child knows the names of her pediatrician, the preferred hospital and the family medical-insurance plan and type of coverage.
  • Post the names and numbers of three neighbors and family members who live nearby.

First Aid

  • Make sure your child knows where to find the first-aid supplies and how to handle basic first aid (or whom to call) for cuts, scrapes, nosebleeds, minor burns, etc.

Phone calls

  • Make sure your child knows how to properly answer the telephone.
  • Remind kids not to tell callers that you’re not home. Kids should never disclose to an unfamiliar voice that they are alone. Discuss an appropriate response such as: “My mom’s not able to come to the phone right now; can I take your number and have her get back to you?” or “Dad’s not available, can I take a message?”

Alarm systems

  • Make sure your child knows how to turn it off and on.


  • Avoid leaving the child responsible for food preparation that involves the stove.
  • Show them, do it with them, then let them cook while you watch.

Home Maintenance

  • Make sure your child knows how to switch on and shut off electrical circuit breaker or replace fuse.
  • Make sure your child knows where to find the shutoff valves on all toilets and sinks, as well as the main water valve, in the event of a leak or overflowing toilet.
  • Make sure your child knows how to put out a cooking fire. Keep baking soda, flour or a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Teens should know never to throw water on a grease fire.

Talking about these issues and taking all of these things into consideration will help you and your child feel more safe, secure, and comfortable about his or her readiness to stay home alone.

Written on behalf of PAMPA
by Dr. Julia Worly

© 2011 Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
PAMPA is a pediatric medical practice in north Atlanta, Georgia consisting of twelve pediatricians, five nurses,
and four locations in Roswell, Woodstock, Atlanta, and Marietta. area.
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