The180

Who should decide when a child can stay home alone?

A B.C. Supreme Court judge recently determined that "children under the age of 10 could not be safely left alone". But what rights should parents have in determining when a child is ready and what role should the courts have in establishing how old is old enough? We'll hear two perspectives.

An eight-year-old child is too young to stay at home alone, according to a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling. The case came about after a social worker and the child's father -- who is separated from the child's mother -- objected to the mother's decision to leave her son home alone after school each day, from 3 to 5 pm.
     
The judge determined that "children under the age of 10 could not be safely left alone." 

A similar case in Manitoba made headlines earlier this year. A Winnipeg mother was charged with child abandonment after leaving her six-year-old home alone for about an hour-and-a-half as she ran errands. She was later acquitted of the charges.
     
In Canada, there is no statutory minimum age for a child to be left alone. Jen Pinarski is a parenting blogger and she says it should stay that way -- that parents should decide when a child is ready to be left alone.

(The full interview is available in the audio player above. The following portions have been edited for clarity and length.)

I think when we tell a child who is mature enough to react properly in emergency situations, who is a bright, independent child [that they can't stay home alone], I think we're telling them that 'you're not smart enough' or... that we don't trust them, that the world is scary and that your home isn't safe, either. And that's a terrible message to send to children.- Jen Pinarski

Sam Wilson is the founder and president of Kidproof Safety, an international organization that provides child and family safety education. Her company offers an "At Home Alone" training course for children ages 10 and older. She believes that, when it comes to children left home alone, the courts should establish how old is old enough.

We actually have a lot of parents who call us and ask us if their 8-year-old can take the [At Home Alone] course -- and we usually say no. And the reason is not because the kids aren't mature and act responsibly... It made me nervous that the parents would now think 'well, now I can leave them at home alone' because 8 really is too young to be left at home alone.- Source

Click the blue button above to listen to the full interview.

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