All over the US, children are going home after school and spending time alone until their parents get home from work. This is what a latchkey kid is. The term came about because they have their own key, usually on a chain hung from their neck, to unlock their home each day when they’re done with school.
They typically have no adult supervision for two to three hours each evening while they wait for their parents to come home. There are more than four million grade-school-aged latchkey kids because there are a lot of dual-income parents and single parents in the workforce today. But this number is down from its high in the 80s when over half of all children were latchkey kids.
It’s very difficult to find affordable childcare for this age group. However, before you choose to let your child become a latchkey kid, there are many things to consider - such as the laws in your area, whether your child is mature enough, and your own financial and emotional situation.
Latchkey Kids and the Law
If you’re considering letting your child become a latchkey kid, then you need to find out what the law is in your state, city, and county. For the most part, allowing a child to stay home before the age of 8 is not recommended or even legal today. It was done in the past with great regularity but now the laws have changed the rules for parents.
Most professionals agree that children between ages 8 and 10 shouldn’t be home alone for more than a couple of hours. Ages 11 to 12 can be home longer but should not be left alone late at night. Kids 13 to 15 can be alone at night, but not all night long. Between 16 and 17 years of age, being left overnight a couple nights is okay. But, keep in mind that your decisions should be made based on the law in your area and the maturity of your child.
Dangers of Being Latchkey