At what age should children be left home alone?

Danielle Fowler
Freelance Writer
At what age would you leave your children home alone? [Photo: Getty]

A mother took to Mumsnet to ask fellow parents at what age it is appropriate to leave her child at home alone and the question swiftly divided opinion.

The mum, who goes by the username @Blahblahblah111, wrote on the online forum: “Obviously it varies according to the child’s maturity etc, but at what age would you consider on average a child would be ok to be left for half an hour or so, if the parent needed to get something from the shops/go to the postbox?”

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In response, a large majority of parents expressed their belief that 11 is an appropriate age for children to be left home alone.

“Pretty much all children I know are left alone for at least three hours from 11 when they go to secondary school,” one commented.

Another agreed, reflecting on their own childhood: “By 11, I was walking a mile on my own to/from the bus stop and letting myself in to an empty house five days a week. By 12 and a half, I was home alone all day during the summer holidays!” 

At what age were you left home alone for the first time? [Photo: Getty]

While others, insisted that you should begin to leave your child for short periods of time from the age of seven in order to teach them how to cope in emergency situations.

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“Where I live it’s considered responsible parenting to teach your child what to do, where to go (which neighbours) for help, what to do in realistic emergency situations, what the house rules when home alone are, and how to use the landline before the age of six,” one wrote.

It’s utterly normal where I live to leave a 7-year-old who’s been suitably prepared in advance and who is happy to be left, for half an hour.

Another agreed, adding: “My 8-year-old gets left for up to an hour from time to time. He’s sufficiently responsible and we have good next door neighbours.”

There are no UK laws dictating an age at which children can be left home alone meaning the decision is left solely in the hands of the parent or guardian.

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However, advice can be found on the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) website.

The children’s charity organisation advises that babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left unsupervised – adding that children under the age of 12 “are rarely mature enough to cope in an emergency” therefore should not be left home alone for a long period of time.

The NSPCC also stresses that although children under the age of 16 may be ok left home alone during the day, they should not be left unsupervised overnight.

What do you think?