Can I leave my 8 year-old home alone

By Amber Russell, LCSW – April 15, 2021 –

As a parent, I have recently been thinking about at what age it is appropriate and acceptable to leave your child home alone. I’ve often considered it when I need to run errands for a couple hours.

My son is 9 years old. I have asked other parents and family members when they first let their children stay home alone. I found the answer varied a lot based on who I asked.

Some people had very strong opinions on the subject and were certain that kids needed to be much older to be left alone. Others made me feel like I was crazy to even be worried about leaving my 9-year-old home alone for 10 minutes while I ran to the store to buy the one item I had forgotten on my list.

So who is right? I did some research and found that the answer varies. Only a few states have laws that specify a legal age to leave a child home alone, and they range from age 8-14.

Indiana, from what I can tell, falls into the “no specific law” category. There is no law or magic number specifying the right time or right age, but according to Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, there are some questions you should consider while making this decision.

  1. Is there a responsible adult available? Does an adult friend or family member live nearby? Or is there possibly a nice neighbor that your child is comfortable with in case they need help? Who can your child go to or call in case of emergency? Do they know how to call a family member for help?
  2. Does your child know emergency procedures? Does your child know what to do and where to go if there is a fire in the home? Do they know where the first aid kit is and how to use it? What about what to do in the event of bad weather such as a tornado?
  3. Does your child regularly problem-solve without assistance? For instance, what are the rules if someone rings the doorbell or a friend calls and wants to come over?  What do they do if they come home after school and the door is open or they notice a window is busted out? If they are outside playing and a stranger tries to talk to them, what would they do?
  4. Can your child perform everyday tasks such as making a snack or making a phone call? These are necessary skills. Do they know their address and phone number? Is there a phone available for them to make an emergency call?
  5. Is your child comfortable staying at home alone? Ask them, and if the answer is “no,” then now is not the right time. A child should feel confident and self-sufficient before being left home alone.The appropriate age for being left home alone depends somewhat on the child, their maturity level, and the length of time they will be alone. I know some 9-year-olds that could handle being home alone for an hour or two, but I also know some 12 and 13-year-olds that I would not trust.

Make sure both you and your child are comfortable with your absence. Ensure they know the rules, what to do in case of an emergency, and who they can contact for help. Start with a small length of time as a trial (like while you run to the grocery store). If they will be home for more than an hour alone, make sure to call and check in.

Can I leave my 8 year-old home alone

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Generally, children must live with their parents or guardians until they can function in society independently. Therefore, they must always also be under the supervision of their parents or guardians, especially at home. However, when is the perfect time to leave a child alone in the house? State leaders around the country have been debating this topic for years, and many still do not have steady ground to base this decision on. For the time being, here are the laws surrounding leaving children alone at home around the country.

Age and Maturity of the Child

One concept that all states agree with is that children should be a certain age before staying at home alone. The age of the child solely depends on each region and its standards.

When it comes to the child's age, eight different ranges are acceptable for each state. These ranges are the ones that states decided are the most acceptable age to start with. That way, as the child gets older, they can begin to adapt to the change and govern themselves accordingly. These ages are used to determine what age is appropriate for kids to start babysitting. The ranges and the number of states that abide by these ages are:

  • 14 Years Old: Illinois
  • 12 Years Old: Mississippi, Delaware, and Colorado
  • 11 Years Old: Michigan
  • 10 Years Old: Washington, Tennessee, Oregon, and New Mexico
  • 9 Years Old: North Dakota
  • 8 Years Old: North Carolina, Maryland, and Georgia
  • 6 Years Old: Kansas
  • No Age: 39 states

Also, the child's maturity level is taken into consideration with being home alone. The following aspects can be used to analyze how mature a child is:

  • Whether the child can care for themselves.
  • Whether the child can follow the rules and make wise decisions.
  • How the child can respond to urgent situations.
  • How the child feels about being alone in the house.

Special Circumstances

In some instances, it is appropriate for young children to stay home alone. Not only are these reasons valid, but they are also necessary most of the time. Sometimes, it can also mean the difference between the child's safety in the long run. Every child is different. Therefore, before parents can leave them in the house alone, they must prep their children for certain circumstances that could occur. This action requires coaching the children by asking certain questions and teaching them specific information, like:

  • Teaching the children any emergency contact information.
  • Scheduling times to call the children while they are at home.
  • Showing the children how to use locks and keep them locked.
  • Keeping dangerous objects out of the children's reach.


There is some consequence for unlawfully leaving a child alone. Each state follows the same specific punishments for these parents, but they also may alter some to satisfy the state rules. If it is suspected that a child is unlawfully left alone at home, Child Protective Services (CPS) will begin an investigation to determine the child's safety in the household. If the investigation shows that the child was in danger while alone, they will be taken into state custody. The parent will also have the potential to be charged with child endangerment or child abandonment, especially if the child is harmed while home alone.

Age a Child can be Left Home Alone by State 2022

Note: Zero (0) values are shown where states have no law/recommendation regarding this matter.

Age a Child can be Left Home Alone by State 2022

  1. Latchkey Children Age Restrictions


Can an 8 year old stay home alone in Florida?

Florida law does not have a hard and fast rule about when children can be left home alone, but instead expects parents to take all of the circumstances into account when deciding what level of supervision is needed.

Can you leave an 8 year old home alone in California?

In California, there is no specific law regarding the age a child may be left home alone. Factors should be taken into account, such as the maturity and emotional level of the child, and any medical or psychological issues or disabilities have to be considered.

At what age is it OK for a child to be home alone?

Most experts say that by age 10 or 11, it's OK to leave a child alone for short periods of time (under an hour) during the day, provided they're not scared and you think they're mature enough to handle it. But you may want to wait another year or two before leaving them alone at night.

Can a 9 year old stay home alone in Maryland?

The law also states that a child cannot be left unattended without proper supervision by a reliable person at least 13 years of age. This is punishable by fines or imprisonment. What can you do? As a parent or care provider ALWAYS PLAN FOR SAFETY!