Is it legal to leave your child alone?

First and foremost, let’s address what the law says. For the most part, the legality of leaving your child home alone must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

“Only three states currently have laws regarding a minimum age for leaving a child home alone, including Illinois, 14 years old; Maryland, 8 years old; and Oregon, 10 years old,” explains Attorney David Reischer of  “However, most states will follow guidelines with the Department of Health and Human Services or other child protective agencies that test a child’s ability to be left home alone. The state will evaluate various factors including the child’s age and maturity, the overall safety of the surrounding area, and any arrangements made to secure the child’s safety.”

No two children are alike

The law seems to make few hard and fast rules, and for good reason – no two children, households or situations are alike. Kids mature at different rates; homes and neighborhoods present different types of hazards.

“Knowing when a child is ready to be left home alone without a babysitter has a lot to do with the individual child. Some children are simply more responsible, more mature, than others,” says Varda Epstein, mother of 12 and writer at the parenting education blog Kars 4 Kids. She offers a few loose age guidelines but emphasizes that length of time and the child’s comfort level are huge factors in the decision.

“A mature eight-year-old may be just fine left at home alone, if not for too many hours. Ten-year-olds can usually manage on their own. But again, if your child is 11 and afraid to be left home alone, do hire a babysitter and let your child know it’s fine to want to have someone there with them. Even a 13-year-old can get lonesome or frightened.”

What to consider before leaving your child alone

Since you can’t base your decision to leave your child alone entirely on age,  you should also assess his or her qualities, maturity level and personality. Also consider the risk factors in and around the house and the resources available to them if there is a time of need.

What mistakes to parents make when leaving kids home alone?

Deciding whether or not your child is ready is only the first step. You also need to lay some groundwork to prepare him or her to go it alone.

Safety & security products put your mind at ease

One of the great things about home security devices is that they allow for peace of mind, remote monitoring and quick responses even without round-the-clock helicopter parenting.

Nanny cams and security cameras that stream live to your computer or smartphone allow you to quickly check in to make sure everything is in order. Seeing what’s going on in your house is especially reassuring if your child isn’t responsive to phone calls or texts for some reason. Outdoor security cameras and video doorbells let you see everyone who is coming or going. The best indoor cameras and nanny cams have handy features like 2-way audio for quick check-ins.

Home security systems can help parents take a more hands-off approach, since they can leave the monitoring to the professionals. The most thorough systems allow security devices like motion sensors, cameras, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and home automation devices to work together to keep all of your household members fully protected and informed.

If you’re getting ready to leave your kids home alone and you haven’t reviewed your general home safety in a while, we recommend checking our new home security checklist to see if you’ve covered all the best practices.