How old do children have to be before they can stay home without supervision?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 11,836
    National Research Center for Women and Families president Dr. Diana Zuckerman discusses at what age children can stay at home alone.

    Host: How old do children have to be before they can stay at home without supervision?

    Dr. Diana Zuckerman: There are legal limits to how old children are supposed to be before they are allowed to stay home without supervision and that varies state by state. But generally, the feeling is that kids should be 12, approximately 12 or older to not need supervision and also it depends for example, if you have got three children and the oldest one is 12 and the youngest one is two, a lot of parents do let their 12 year olds take care of the younger children and of course, babysitters as well, but that doesn't mean it's a really good idea. So, it partly depends on the situation. Is this for two hours after school? Is this at night, a home alone for six hours at a time? Are you expecting your older children to cook for themselves or for the younger children? Do they know how to cook? Are they just going to use the microwave or they are going to use the stove? These are all the different kinds of issues that parents need to think about but a lot of it depends on the maturity of the child and you will learn, you will see how much you can trust them, but don't expect too much. Don't expect too much of a ten or 11 or 12 or 13 year old child. You have to be aware of the fact that they are going to have their own interests and maybe they are supposed to be supervising the younger children or maybe they are supposed to be doing their homework, but when temptation strikes, kids that age very often, are going to be tempted to do what feels good to them not necessarily what they are supposed to do.