Child Supervision Guidelines Every Parent Should Know

Child Home Alone

“Don’t leave your child alone.” It sounds like a no-brainer — but the realities of daily life make it hard to ensure your kids are always supervised, or to understand and follow child supervision guidelines closely.

It takes only a second for a child to get into a risky situation; in fact, the No. 1 cause of childhood death is accidental injury. You can minimize that risk by making sure that your children are not left alone. Common examples of inadequate child supervision that can harm kids include:

  • Leaving a child at home alone
  • Leaving a child in a car alone
  • A child’s escaping from the home unnoticed
  • Leaving a child in a public area (such as a playground) and assuming that other adults or children will provide oversight
  • Using baby monitors to “watch” children when you’re outside your home
  • Many states have laws or guidelines that define at what ages, and for how long, children can be left alone. Installations also have specific guidelines.
  • Inadequate child supervision is known to create a higher risk for childhood injuries.
  • In recent years, leaving a child alone, or unsupervised with another young child, has caused over half of child deaths involving bathtubs or bath-related products.
  • Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle-related deaths in children. The temperature in children left in a locked car with all the windows closed can rise quickly — three to five times faster than in adults. This article from the American Academy of Pediatrics has more information on extreme heat safety measures.

Even if your child has reached the minimum age to be left alone where you live, that’s not the only factor that determines whether your son or daughter is ready to be left unsupervised. Review this Child Welfare Information Gateway resource to learn what else you need to consider.

When can my child walk from one place to another alone?

Before you allow your kids to walk by themselves to the bus stop, or home from school, or to piano lessons, check the local laws or guidelines. While your children may be legally considered old enough, it’s up to you to judge whether they’re mature enough once they’ve reached the minimum age. You know your kids best: Before you send them off, see how they feel about it, take a few practice walks, and discuss safety tips. Plan their routes, and check with your state Safe Routes to School coordinator for more information. Visit the National Center for Safe Routes to School website to find your state coordinator and get other safety tips.

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