How young is too young for kids to be left alone? - WKRN News 2

How young is too young for kids to be left alone?

Dr. Joseph Gigante is a pediatrician at Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. Dr. Joseph Gigante is a pediatrician at Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

There is no legal age children must be to stay home alone in Tennessee. Instead, parents are advised to use their best judgment.

Recently, Murfreesboro police arrested two parents for leaving their kids at home.

The first case involved a four-year-old left alone for 10 minutes while his father went to the store.

When police arrived, officers found a loaded BB gun, marijuana and a saw, all within the boy's reach.

The second involved a single mom who works as a nurse.  She was arrested for leaving her seven-year-old home from 2 p.m. in the afternoon until 7 p.m. that evening, something she did at least twice a week, according to police.

While there is no legal age, there is a guideline that children under 10 should not be left without supervision, according to Dr. Joseph Gigante, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

"I think it really is going to vary based on your child," he told Nashville's News 2, adding, ‘Every child is going to be different. There may be some 10 year olds who you can leave alone.  There may be some 14 and 15 year olds who you wouldn't feel comfortable leaving them alone.  I think probably the most important thing is the level of maturity."

Dr. Gigante suggests parents take time to analyze their child's behavior before making the decision whether they should stay home alone.

"A child that's going to be more impulsive and more of a risk taker is probably a child who you would want to wait before you left them alone," he said.  "On the other hand, if it's a child who really does follow the rules, would be able to recognize a risk, would be able to know what to do in the event of an emergency, that's probably a child you would feel more comfortable leaving at home."

Both police and pediatricians agree that when a child is ready, parents should not leave them alone for long periods at a time at first.

"If you're going to be running to the grocery store or running an errand, maybe leaving your child at home for 15 or 30 minutes at a time so you're not gone for an extended amount of time and see how that goes," Gigante suggested.

The state of Illinois has one of the strictest laws when it comes to unsupervised kids.  The age is 14 before they can stay at home alone.

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