The WC – Kids at Home & in Vehicles

November 2, 2012 12:00 pm · 45 comments

The “Water Cooler” is a feature on where we ask you a question or provide a topic, and you talk about it!

The “Water Cooler” will be up Monday-Friday at noon!

How old should kids be before they’re left at home or inside a vehicle all alone?

Talk about it….

1 Livid! November 2, 2012 at 12:14 PM

I was at the post office a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t believe my eyes! I pulled into the parking lot at the East Street Post office in Concord (not the best part of town) and noticed a woman who had parked her Suburban alongside the curb near the entrance of the post office, but not directly in front of the entrance. She was getting a package out of the back of her Suburban. I then went into the Post office, retrieved the company mail out of the P.O Box and started to walk back to my car. I then noticed 5 very small children in the car, with the windows down, but no adult anywhere to be seen. Three were very young infants (maybe 4-6 months), and the other 2 (maybe 3 & 4 years?) were out of their car seats just standing in the car. All of the windows were down, and anyone could have helped themselves to any of these kids, as all the windows were down. I turned around immediately, went back into the post office, and asked in a loud voice “does anyone know who the 5 young children belong to who are in a car outside and unattended?” Nobody answered, but I believe the woman was at the end of a line of about 15 people. Really??? Did she really plan to leave these kids unattended, while she waited about 15-20 minutes or more, to get service at the counter? I walked back out, went to my car to get my phone (I was going to call the police) and she walked out and was standing by the car just “chatting” with the kids. I gave her a piece of my mind, and said I was just getting ready to call the police, and that you don’t leave children unattended in a car!! I’ll bet you anything that some of these children were not even hers! It was a dark green SUV and she is probably a daycare provider for other people’s children! UGH….I was livid! Can’t believe she is “responsible” for the safely of these children.

2 Dorothy November 2, 2012 at 12:19 PM

My boys didn’t want to go to a babysitter when they reached Jr High. They became latch key kids by the 9th grade. I would guess a teenager could be left in a vehicle.

3 Mama P November 2, 2012 at 12:21 PM


4 Anonymous November 2, 2012 at 12:33 PM

I really think it depends on the child. But to leave at home I would say in general, 10.

5 Jim November 2, 2012 at 12:33 PM

In my home it was 14 and even then I have my dad stop by every so often unannounced just to be sure everything is good…She’s smart and has a phone so I don’t worry too much

6 Parsnip November 2, 2012 at 12:45 PM

In 1986, it was age 10 for home or car — both locked.

Today? I’m not sure — except that he would be even better prepared than he was in 1986.

7 Lori November 2, 2012 at 12:57 PM

I believe the law about leaving them home alone is 13, can anyone confirm? I agree it depends on the kid. 13 sounds about right for leaving them home alone with strict rules about not answering the door etc. I would leave my early teens alone in the car but would make them roll up windows and lock doors. If it was too hot out they came in the store with me. I was always home from work by the time the got out of school so it wasn’t really an issue for me plus they liked going everywhere with me when they were home.

8 Screwy Louie November 2, 2012 at 1:01 PM

Teens 13+

9 Anonymous November 2, 2012 at 1:09 PM

When we were young (which I admit was when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth), we were left alone at home while Mom went to the store or ran other short errands as long as the oldest one home was at least 9 years old. I started babysitting at 9 years… did my friends. Seems we were left in the car alone at age 7 or older. I THINK the law now states a child has to be at least 12 to be left home alone, but not sure. Of course, we were allowed to go out and play, out of parents’ sight for HOURS, and were called home (dad across the street used a bugle for his kids) when it was time to come in. We had it good. 🙂

10 Elwood November 2, 2012 at 1:15 PM

47 is extreme.

I think kids can be left alone for brief periods @ 25.

11 Antler November 2, 2012 at 1:16 PM

We NEVER left them alone in a car while they were still minors (just too easy for a trusting child to fall for a well-phrased “open the door because” line from a stranger)…..please it either gets too hot or too cold in a vehicle if the windows are safely rolled up.

At home, the oldest one left alone at home had to be age 14 (which means the others there were 13 and 11), and it would only be for a couple of hours at a time, at most. Instructions were not to open the door for ANYONE, no matter what they might say. It was different then because there were no cell phones on which they could reach a parent if they needed to.

12 Anon November 2, 2012 at 1:16 PM

As always you ask the dumbest questions. This is a problem with society, i.e. both parents have to work not something that can be fixed or is even worth debating. We all what the right thing to do is, and yet we don’t do it and for some of us we can’t even though we would if we could.


13 HomeAlone November 2, 2012 at 1:18 PM

I would say no younger than 10 for home alone, but it depends on the maturity level and level of trust of that particular kid. For kids today, it may be older. To leave a kid alone in a car, I’d say the same thing. Can the kid be trusted? Or, are they going to wander off if you leave them alone, or are they trustworthy enough to stay put. Kids today may need to be adults before they can be trusted. Who knows.

14 Wisecracker November 2, 2012 at 1:35 PM

For what length of time are we talking about? That would be the key issue.

I don’t have children, but I can honestly say I don’t think I’d feel comfortable leaving a ten-year old child “alone” in a car and certainly not alone a home. I believe in the buddy system. I’d entertain the idea if there were more than one together. Would a ten-year be able to handle any type of emergency situation at home, because you never know… ?

15 Pyrrhus November 2, 2012 at 1:36 PM

I think it depends on the maturity of the Child. I was prob 9/10ish when I stayed in the car/home by myself. I was told never open the door to strangers and not to answer the phone. I did exactly that.

The Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Safety Act states that Children 6 years and younger are not to be left unattended inside a car. There is no law that states an age on leaving a child home alone.

Parents may find this useful on determining whether their child is ready to be left alone:

16 Have some huevos November 2, 2012 at 1:47 PM

Circumstantial…8 years old for the car and maybe 12/13 to stay at home. That is of course if you raised your children correctly and have responsible kids that understand right and wrong. I have no issue with leaving a kid in the car while a parent runs to an ATM or grab something quickly. Kids get bored quickly, not to go shop at Costco for 2 hours.. If people can let their dog run around their lap while driving, people can leave a child in the car for 5 minutes. But for you paranoid folk maybe the car should have dark tinted windows and each child wielding a knife to protect themselves from said abductor.

17 Go A's November 2, 2012 at 1:57 PM

@ Livid!: Chill out, lady. What’s the big deal? Have you ever tried to get anything done with 5 kids? Mom ran it to drop off a package at the post office and was within a short distance of her car. It’s not like she went shopping at Nordstrom and left her infant twins inside a car in 100 degree weathe for hours. The windows were down and she probably locked the doors and set the alarm. The kids weren’t in any real danger.

Get a life already.

18 Chicken Little November 2, 2012 at 2:02 PM

I have left my kids in the car for a couple of minutes when they were 10 and 8. The windows were up, the doors were locked, and they had instructions not to open the door for anybody and to lay on the horn if anybody tried to mess with them. This was when I had to run in a gas station, 7-11, or some place where I could actually hear the horn if they honked it. If they were truly unattended (my assistance was not immediately available), I think I would wait until they were 14 or so.

19 Game to prepare for the unexpected situation November 2, 2012 at 2:13 PM

When I was around 5 years old, my mother started playing a ‘game’ with us, practicing what to do if an unexpected situation came up resulting in us being home alone (if her car broke down, or a doctor’s appt. lasted past the time we arrived home from school, or she had to take my grandparents somewhere in an emergency, etc.). She would tell us we were going to play a game and it was pretend, then she’d say ‘I’m going downtown…don’t let anyone in the house while I’m gone.’ – and then she’d walk around to the back door and yell saying she was a neighbor who had brought some cookies over, or ring the front bell and say she was the mailman with a package, or a question, or someone who needed help, and repeatedly try different things and see how we reacted. Then she would talk through with us afterward what we might have done better. It made a big impression on us.

And then there were a few times when emergencies did occur when we were as young as maybe 8 yrs. old, that we arrived home, and she was at the hospital with someone, or her car had broken down, and we were alone. And we knew what to do. When some such thing happened, she would call a trusted neighbor to ask them to call us, or come by to check on us (if we were locked outside the house), and we were extremely responsible, and obedient kids. We had specific rules to follow in such an instance…no visitors were allowed to come over, and we were to stay in our yard. If we could go in the house, we were not supposed to cook and not to operate any machinery (lawn mower, drills, etc.)

20 Livid! November 2, 2012 at 2:18 PM

@ Go A’s
Your response blows me away! I was there, I saw this woman standing at the BACK of the line in the post office, and believe me, this line of 15+ people takes about 20 minutes to get to the one clerk waiting on people. I go to this post office daily, and I know how slow the line moves. She was not just “dropping off a package” she was waiting in a LONG slow line, to mail one. She had no view of these kids in the car, and like I said, 3 were under 6 months old. They were still in infant seats, and I’ll bet you they weren’t all hers! The other two were out of their car seats roaming around in the car, they were no more than 3 or 4.. 5 kids under the age of 3-4? These were not her kids, at least not all of them. I’ll bet my money she does daycare, and left other peoples kids in the car to be taken by anyone. Plus, who pays attention to car alarms these days? Your comment about the kids “not being in danger”, are you kidding me? How would you feel if these were your kids, and your “entrusted” day care provider did this? Although your mentality tells me it would be no big deal. She could have chose to go to the post office on Saturday, when she didn’t have all these kids. WOW!!

21 Lorelei November 2, 2012 at 2:23 PM

As I drove home from shopping, @ 1230 this afternoon, there were kids all over Oak Grove Road, obviously going home from school……AT TWELVE THIRTY!!!! It’s no freaking wonder that other countries and other STATES are far, far ahead of our kids, education-wise! How in the bloody hell are California kids going to compete for good jobs with such shoddy education???? Half a day at school is just the first part of the problem; now, they’ re on their own until Mom/Dad get home @ what, 6:00, 7:00??? Perfect recipe for trouble!

22 @ Phyrrus November 2, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Thank you for the great advice and link, very helpful! Now that my child is 10, I do struggle with is it O.K. to leave her home along for an hour for a run the grocery store, that kind of thing. As with so many things to do with parenting, this involves a judgement call based on the child’s maturity.

WIth regards to the Mom that left all those very young kids unattended in a van (probably out of line of sight), that is an accident waiting to happen. I also have the sickening feeling she may have been a daycare provider, and the parents probably have no idea that she does this.

23 The Phantom November 2, 2012 at 3:14 PM

When I was very young I was left in a car on a hot day. My kidneys and liver partially shut down and I did suffer some lingering damage to my brain. It comes and goes and as time passes I have more trouble with logical reasoning and concentration.

24 True November 2, 2012 at 3:30 PM

One parent should all be home with a child till about18 yrs old.Or a releative who is dependeable. number17 you are nuts. All 4 of those kids could of been kid naped. Hope you never have any children. My pqrents wear never home to this day I hate it. When we had things happen no one was thair to help us. and things happened that never would if a parent was around.

25 Happy One November 2, 2012 at 3:59 PM

It depends. Some kids are more self-confident than others. Some kids are more reliable than others. It also depends on how far away the parents will be and for how long. Is it day or night? So many variables. In general, I think kids are safer home alone today because we all have cell phones. Our kids can reach us or a neighbor instantly if they run into trouble.

I don’t see why parents would leave young kids alone in a car. If you are going to take them with you in the car, bring them into the building with you. I don’t remember leaving my kids alone in the car until they were quite old and there was no doubt they could take care of themselves.

26 Randome Task November 2, 2012 at 4:08 PM

ok quick question … you would leave your child in a car or at home because that is your kid and you know best …for sure ok ….but …if that kid or kids end up missing ….we then have to pay for the police and rescue and what ever else it takes to look for your child or children and no it is not about the money or taxes …that is not the point …point is you dare anyone to tell you how to raise your kids yet demand everyone come to your aid when you blow it …that is the question….. is anyone held responsible for their actions ……..obviously no

27 Howard K Mullins III November 2, 2012 at 4:19 PM

Each child is different, its up to the parents.

But left alone in a car? 16 at least with a drivers license.

At home, depends on the maturity of the child or teenager or young adult.

If your kid is 25 and still living at home, then you have other problems.

28 mileena November 2, 2012 at 4:23 PM

I was left in the car by my father at age 7 in a darkened residential street at midnight while he went into a house to party for a few hours. This was in the 1970’s. I also took the city bus by myself at that age and rode my bike 4 miles across town by myself.

29 anonanonagain November 2, 2012 at 4:34 PM

People leaving young children in cars is still a common occurrence unfortunately. Today a young woman left her very young child/baby in the car as she retrieved something from a business. Her attitude was one of “no big deal”. I know it can be an inconvenience to do errands such as shopping banking, etc etc. but people should think about that BEFORE they have children. Too many idiots having kids without a clue……..

30 bluebird November 2, 2012 at 4:51 PM

What ever happened to the “it takes a village” approach? Shouldn’t you have taken responsibility and watched her kids for her? Obviously, she needs our help much like “Octo-Mom” needs all the help she can get. Her family is on welfare and whatever other socialistic programs you all want to keep but don’t want your taxes raised to support. Where did you think the money was going to come from?

I am a big girl, I can take it. Let your bleeding heart diatribe be unleashed. Just form one line with the tallest person in the front. If you are taller than the person in front of you, tap them on the shoulder and move forward.

31 My Belief November 2, 2012 at 5:24 PM

Not sure about it now, but CA law used to say nothing under 11 at home by themselves.

32 Linda November 2, 2012 at 6:52 PM

NEVER NEVER NEVER! The parents need their head examined.

33 MDE mom November 2, 2012 at 7:05 PM

@at Livid #1,

WHY did it take you 15 to 20 minutes, to NOT call the police? It’s against the law to leave your kids in the car. Child endangerment.

34 Anon November 2, 2012 at 7:46 PM

Why did you not call the police?
Probably an unlicensed day care…

35 ThePhantom November 2, 2012 at 8:03 PM

My mini-nemesis, the old “anon”, or ammo or some other Tea Party Republican has been hiding over here. Why didn’t you tell me Antler?
They are falsely using my screen id. over here, yet not on Politics.

Doesn’t matter. See Item 2 on Politics. The Delta operator has executed the mission.
Now I return to Politics by going …………………………………………..FORWARD

36 anon November 2, 2012 at 9:51 PM

Delta operator? Looks like Mr Phantom really did suffer brain damage.

37 JRConcord November 3, 2012 at 6:55 AM

My kid learned to shoot a 3 yr old and at 4yr old had a ccw permit so at 4 he was able to stay home no problem in the car no problem. Center of mass triple tap !!!

38 Ac November 3, 2012 at 8:17 AM

My sons dad thought it was a good idea to leave my son in the car alone in a parking garage when he was four days old . At this time it fully sunk in that I had reproduced with an idiot with no common sence.

39 MDE mom November 3, 2012 at 8:17 AM

@JRConcord #37,

Your “kid learned to shoot a 3 yr old and 4 yr old” What?

What did your kid kill?

40 Starfish November 3, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Jrconcord–that is really scary if you let your kids shoot three and four year olds. I am pretty sure they are defenseless, especially at that age.

41 DZL November 3, 2012 at 10:31 AM

At what age do adults realize its not about age but the maturity level?

42 macawlady November 3, 2012 at 12:26 PM

I think it depends on the child, and how responsible they are.

I was a “latch-key” child at age 7. My grandmother had watched me up till that age, but died of cancer. Both my parents worked and had very few options. Of course, this was long ago and the world was a safer place then.

I have no kids so can’t really judge…10 years old, maybe?

43 Robert Douglas November 3, 2012 at 7:38 PM

It’s very subjective-it depends upon the maturity level of the child…however my police friends tell me that 10-11 is ok to be home alone.

44 Lived! November 5, 2012 at 7:42 AM

@ MDE Mom #33

Re-read my post! It did not take me 15-20 minutes to call the police, what I said was it takes 15-20 minutes standing in that line, at that post office, to get service. As soon as I saw the kids alone in the car, I went back in the post office and asked in a loud voice, “who left 5 kids unattended in the car?” Nobody “stepped up” so I left the post office to get my phone in the car, and was going to phone the police. At that time, she came out and I gave her a piece of my mind. I had my phone in hand ready to call the police, but she was getting ready to leave. I wish I had taken her license plate, but I didn’t, and by the time the police would have arrived, she would have been gone. At least I hope this made her think, as everyone in the post office new it was her after I made my announcement. Next time, read the posts better before you comment!

45 JJ November 12, 2012 at 9:32 AM

You should not leave your kids at home alone at all. That is absolutely irresponsible. Probably think that you drive better when drunk too. That’s absolute maddness. 10 year old cant defend himself again a grown man, so until he can you cant leave him/her at home. losers! those parents are complete losers! unless its an absolute emergency it should not happen! unless you are going to the store for 5 minutes it should not happen! If you cant afford the kids you shouldnt have them.

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