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Legal age to leave child alone in the house

(26 Posts)
leo69 Fri 08-May-09 14:00:43

Does anyone know if there is a legal age limit for leaving your child at home for a few hours in the evening?
We have a 12 year old son,who's very mature, and a 10 year old daughter. We haven't got a sitter tonight to go to a friends house round the corner for dinner. My husband has suggested that we let our son babysit, but I just wondered whether I could get in trouble.We would only be out from 8-11pm.I think they are both sensible enough.

holdingittogether Fri 08-May-09 14:07:03

Have they ever been left before? If not, I think it would be a bit much for a first time. It will be dark outside and I would worry they would be afraid. Depends on how far away your friend's house is. Next door is totally different to in another street. I don't know what the law says but I'm sure if something went wrong questions would be asked...

QueentessentialShadow Fri 08-May-09 14:08:55

Last time I spoke to social services, they said they would be concerned if a child younger than 11 was left in the house without proper adult supervision for the evening.

lal123 Fri 08-May-09 14:12:03

You'd only get into trouble if sometihgn happened to them (who'll know they're on their own) - and that being the case I'd be more worried about something happening that getting ito trouble with ss.

KingCanuteIAm Fri 08-May-09 14:12:26

There is not a technical limit but QS is right, a child as young as 10 alone with a child under 14 (14 being the age they can babysit for non-family) would not be looked on well. It is late at night as well.

IMO no way would I do this, if they are round the corner cul they not come to you instead?

KingCanuteIAm Fri 08-May-09 14:13:18

Lal, you can also get in trouble is they think they are at unreasonable risk of harm.

leo69 Fri 08-May-09 14:14:16

He has been left for a couple hours in the day, and half an hour with his sister while we nipped to the local shop..20 mins.
Not sure now what to do. It was different when I was a chil..I babysat all night for my cousin when I was 10 and he was 2

Merrylegs Fri 08-May-09 14:17:03

Hmm - tough one. I can see why you are tempted. I have a 13 (nearly 14) , 12 and 8 year old. I would leave the 13 and 12 year old together, but I would not leave the 13 or 12 year old in charge of the 8 year old.

I think the key is not how mature they are separately, but how they behave together. Are they likely to wind each other up or could they be left happily snuggled under a duvet watching a film and behave sensibly?

(There isn't a legal limit btw, but a 'common sense' limit)

dmo Fri 08-May-09 14:20:54

is your dd old for her age??

i think if so it should be ok, i would feed them tea get them a dvd/video each to watch in their own room with some treats and a phone number

my boys aged 12 and 13 are fine on their own for 2hrs ish if they dont see each other grin

leo69 Fri 08-May-09 14:28:23

They are both really sensible. I am a childminder and so both have been brought up with childcare,and know what's safe etc. But now I feel a bit uncomfortable about it after listening to your views. My other friend say's she will no longer get childcare for her son when he goes to secondary,even in the hols,which I think is a bit too soon.

QueentessentialShadow Fri 08-May-09 14:30:11

Do you have a neighbour who could look in on them? Or, is there a 16 year old in the neighbourhood who could come and sit with them for some pocket money?

KingCanuteIAm Fri 08-May-09 14:37:15

If it were a lunch then I would consider it, it is the fact it is at night that i bothering me - and I would be happier with 2 hours than 3. Also, 12 is still quite young really, there is a huge difference between 12 and 14 when they are considered capable of babysitting in law - ie when they have a chance of knowing what to do in an emergency and actually being able to cope if an emergency should arise.

At the end of the day though, you know your children!

How about, as a compromise, you go and make pit stops every hour? Just enough to pop your head round the door? That way, if they are feeling a bit insecure they will know you will be back before long... and nipping back twice if it is just round the corner should not be too difficult, you do it once, dh does it once...

holdingittogether Fri 08-May-09 14:39:06

Provided they are not the type to fight with each other then the chances of anything happening to harm them are very slim. However i would be worried about them suddenly feeling scared or lonely. Being left at night is different to daytime and even as an adult I sometimes get spooked late at night when dh is out/away.

abraid Fri 08-May-09 14:42:39

Do you have a webcam? Could you set up a link with your dinner hosts so you can watch the children?

I personally feel that sensible parents know when their children are OK to leave and will have taken sensible precautions (locking doors and windows, leaving mobiles switched on), teaching fire drill/no cooking in parents' absence/don't open the door, etc.

All children are different. Some are ready for this earlier than others. My two are the same ages as yours and though I have left them regularly alone (for up to 40 minutes in the case of the younger one, and for two or three hours in the case of the older one) I wouldn't leave them after dark for this long because the younger one can be a little nervy.

GreenBlack Fri 08-May-09 14:46:57

This is useful

PixiNanny Fri 08-May-09 14:49:36

I don't think there is a legal age? But personally, I feel uncomfortable alone in a house at night, so a child may not feel comforatble at all!

I will leave my charges (8 and 12) at home if I run to the shops during the day much like their parents would (I did check before I left them alone!) but that's literally no more than twenty/thirty minutes depending on how busy it is and our house is tucked away in a courtyard full of shops so they're safe from strangers there as the shop owners keep an eye out too. So it depends on situation and location as well.

KatyKatyKaty Fri 08-May-09 15:29:17

I would say 12 to be left alone, 14 to look after siblings and 16 to look after non family, this is what I got off the net: The law relating to babysitting is quite complex too, for England and Wales. The 1933 Children and Young Persons Act states that a person can be prosecuted if they neglect a child in their 'custody, charge or care'. However, if you are under 16 and something goes wrong while you are babysitting the child's parents may be charged with neglect.

Blondeshavemorefun Fri 08-May-09 22:36:36

there is not a legal age to leave your child alone

12 is more than capable of looking after theirselves for a few hours - many 11/12yrs are latch key kids after school till 6/7pm

though i wouldnt leave a 12 in charge of a 10yr - it is not fair to make them responsible for a younger sibling - and think you have to be 14 to be in charge of a child (even a sibling)

you have left it too late to get a bs, so guess best thing to do is pop home every 30/60mins or cancel dinner/get friends over to you

Dillydaydreamer Fri 08-May-09 22:49:35

There is no legal age, however, should anything happen when you aren't there you can be prosecuted for neglect if harm comes to the child. i.e. fire breaks out and child is injured/dies or child falls downstairs and has no help for several hours due to you not being at home. Its about assessing risks, minimising them and ensuring the child could cope if the worst happened i.e. burgalry, fire, injury etc.

BoffinMum Fri 08-May-09 22:56:05

My parents did this once when I was (a usually mature) 11 and my brother was 8. We were staying with some of their childless friends at the time. Believe me, we got up to all sorts of mischief. Plus we wouldn't have been caught if we hadn't broken the hinge of the cupboard with the secret nudie pictures in there. shock

Knowing my lot, I wouldn't leave anyone under 16-ish in charge here unless I was within shouting distance or it was an emergency. Even then I'd be a bit nervous.

I left the eldest once to babysit when she was 16 or 17 and she discovered the vodka bottle for the first time, got bladdered, hugged us when we got back from our 45 minutes in the village pub, told us she loved us (that's when I guessed something was up - she's a very affectionate drunk apparently), then burst into tears when I said 'What are you doing? If the house had caught fire you wouldn't have been able to get the boys out if you were off your face' to which she responded by slurring 'Omigod, I didn't think, oh, I have put my brothers at risk', then she cried some more and had to go out the front for a fag because of the stress of it all (NB this is a strongly anti-smoking house and she was not supposed to be smoking either), and then she puked all over her bedroom carpet and fell soundly asleep. It was quite funny in some ways, but also a reminder that they are still kids even at that age.

Blondeshavemorefun Fri 08-May-09 22:58:53

and bet she never drunk vodka again

southern comfort has the same memories for me - aspart from i wasnt bs but just drunk with my friend when my parents were out

leo69 Fri 08-May-09 23:32:51

Thanks to everyone who answered. I will not be letting my kids move from my side for another 10 yrs lol

BoffinMum Sat 09-May-09 09:07:57

Blondes, I had an apricot brandy incident at boarding school, and the staff all took pity on me afterwards and assumed I had food poisoning, and looked after me lovingly in the san until I was over the worst. I still feel quite guilty about that. blush I also haven't touched it since, and now hardly drink LOL.

Leo, well I would probably say start with short escapes and see what happens. The reality in our case was that there were plenty of people around who would have stepped in to help DD out if it all went pear-shaped, as we live on an estate, and we weren't far away, but I was trying to make the point to her that the person in charge needs to take it all very seriously. She learned her lesson and is incredibly thorough about safety and so on now when she looks after them (aged 21). Perhaps almost too much so - they complain of her strictness! grin Kids do have to learn a degree of independence otherwise they go bonkers when left unattended - that's kind of what happened in the case of me and my brother really, because the leash had been too tight up until that point I think.

Blimey, it's all rushing back now. The horror of those nudie photos is almost giving me post-traumatic stress disorder just thinking about it. Imagine 40-year old north Germans in the 1970s with unfettered body hair on a windswept North Sea beach, and you can probably see why. shock

BoffinMum Sat 09-May-09 09:15:14

Also leo, I am reading the Dawn French biography at the moment and her stories of when she was a babysitter are fairly eyebrow raising ... she does have the decency to apologise to the families retrospectively in the book though!

When I was about 16/17, I went to babysit with a friend for a local family - she found the gig. I was horrified that the minute the parents had gone, she woke the baby up for the evening so she could play with it and so on, and she also went through the cupboards, proudly brandished birthing shots of said baby crowning. (I am surprised I ever had kids myself after seeing those). I was pretty appalled, but did not do as much to stop this as I probably should have done. But I refused to babysit with her ever again.

You might need this link now!! grin

Ripeberry Sat 09-May-09 11:59:59

Our parents left me and my brother for 4 hours one night in a strange house whilst on holiday! I was 12yrs old and my brother 9yrs old.
We were too petrified to move from the living room as we ended up watching "The Amytiville Horror" film and a rose bush outside the living room window kept scrapping on the glass as it was a windy night.
But these days there is too much temptation for kids to run amock if they know their parents will be out. grin

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