18

Whether its to visit a friend who lives a few streets away, or going to the park by themselves, or going to the local shop, at what age do you allow your kids to go out by themselves?

And what rules do you set down?

  • 11
    It has nothing to do with age. – bjb568 Jun 10 '15 at 18:06
  • 8
    @bjb568 I suppose you have a very responsible 2yo which will go out alone? – Dariusz Jun 10 '15 at 18:25
  • 10
    It's certainly possible, but the deciding factor is like you said: responsibility. That doesn't correlate well with age. – bjb568 Jun 10 '15 at 19:10
  • 5
    @bjb568 - Your second comment is more reasonable than your first. While it's true that children don't magically acquire responsibility at a some prescribed age, there is still some general correlation. (For example, 4 is probably too young, and 15 is probably too late.) Another factor that should be considered, too, is the general safety of the neighborhood. In some places I've lived, my eight-year-old would be fine wandering around the neighborhood. In others, I'd put on tighter clamps until they were a few years older. – J.R. Jun 11 '15 at 16:16
  • 4
    @Ginger - Some neighborhoods are safer than others. Less safe neighborhoods demand more maturity before children explore unsupervised. I stand by my remark. You can pretend "general safety" isn't in your vocab, but we always take chances with our children, as soon as they come into the world. Besides "Mr./Ms. Unsafe" in the neighborhood, there is electricity in our houses, water in our bathtubs, gas in our lawn mowers, reckless drivers on the roads, not to mention tornadoes, thunderstorms, and hurricanes. Our job as parents is to wisely mitigate risks, not pretend we can get them to zero. – J.R. Sep 16 '15 at 3:10
13

First of all, you must check your country's laws. In Poland it's illegal to leave children without supervision when they're under 7 years old (there are several exceptions though).

You should allow your kids to go out alone as soon as possible, but not sooner than they're ready:) And if and only if you are ready for that. I think it is important for the kid to go out alone, it's a first big step towards being an adult.

6-7 years old is a decent age to start first alone walks. Let the kid, preferably with a friend of the same age, play alone on a playground nearest to your home - it would be best if it was within sight of your home, so that you can take look from time to time. Warn them not to stray from the playground. Also, a kid should know, by heart, his full address.

9-10 years of age would be a good time to extend the allowed range of your kids' playing. Let them go to a favorite and a bit distant coffehouse, ice-cream store, etc. A good rule for that: don't go anywhere by public transportation.

Around 13-14 years your kid is grown enough to go to a distant park using public transport, to a party at friend's house even to a night at his friend's without any parents' supervision.

Rules to follow for the kids:

  • know not to talk to strangers and never go anywhere with strangers
  • know his address, full name, parent's full names, parent's phone numbers by heart
  • always have a mobile phone, always have it turned on and with sound enabled
  • always say where they are going and when they are going to be back - introduce punishments limiting the newly gained freedom for being late (or forgetting to call)
  • always provide a location for sleepovers/parties

An important factor to consider is your kid's maturity - is he a responsible person (for his age)? Do you actually trust him to go out alone? Also - how does your neighbourhood look like? peaceful suburbs or noisy city center? is there traffic? are there many people walking around? do you yourself feel safe there? What dangers are there?

  • 4
    I know times have changed but.. I had to use public transportation to go to school since I was 10. A public train, not a school bus. I used the same public transportation to go to music lessons and visit my friends from school alone by the age of 12. That was 20 years ago, and in the beginning I did only have a public phone card, no mobile phone. Nearly all kids in my village did this, as there was only a primary school and no school busses. – skymningen Feb 1 '17 at 10:19
  • 1
    Times have changed. I played outside without supervision at 5-6 yo, walked to and back from school when I was 7, used public transport at 11 to get to english lessons, not to mention bike trips with friends to other cities (11-12yo). I wouldn't let my children do those things at that age... No to mention that if I did, I could be prosecuted. – Dariusz Feb 1 '17 at 11:31
  • Well, the public transport to school is still the same in that village. And when I was still living there 10 years ago two nearby living kids that I used to babysit used to come around alone to visit me (probably more my pets ;-) ). Times haven't changed too much. It might be different in a large city with dangerous traffic to cross. – skymningen Feb 1 '17 at 11:33
  • I feel like this answer really, really depends on where you live. I would feel far more comfortable letting a kid use public transit at a younger age, if they lived in a place like Singapore, or maybe a rural town, as opposed to Chicago or New York. – Arthur Dent Jul 27 '17 at 19:34
9

Whether its to visit a friend who lives a few streets away, or going to the park by themselves, or going to the local shop, at what age do you allow your kids to go out by themselves?

My younger son is 12 and he knows how to ride the bus to a couple of places, but he doesn't know how to transfer to a second bus yet. He can walk to a friend's house. He can walk 20 minutes to the grocery store. He can go next door and ask permission to take their dog for a walk. He can put on his helmet and ride his bike around the neighborhood (four blocks, with clear delimiters).

And what rules do you set down?

I keep tight control at this stage. He has to ask first before leaving our yard, he has to go where he said he was going to go, not somewhere else, and he has to come back by the prescribed time.

If there is some lapse with regard to these rules, then the next time, I don't give him as much independence.


That said, I have to be honest and tell you that when this child was three, he wandered the immediate neighborhood, visiting neighbors spontaneously. We live on a one-block dead end street (cul de sac). If I turned my back for a moment, he was out the door. The only way I was able to solve this was by getting him a toy walkie talkie. I would have had to tie him down to prevent his neighborhood visits.

The rule was that if I called him on the walkie talkie, he had to respond. Also, if he told me he was going to Neighbor X's house, and X wasn't home, he had to check in with Mama in person, by phone, or by walkie talkie, and ask permission before going to knock on Y's door.

6

Be sure to check the laws where you live. Legal and reasonable don't always overlap.

When I was growing up in Canada, at 3-4 we would cross the street or go to the neighbors house alone. By 5 i and all of my friends were walking a half mile to the grocery store on errands and to school alone. By 8 my "alone" roaming range covered a radius of roughly 5 miles including a wilderness preserve, middle class neighborhoods, college campus, rivers and lakes, a shopping mall, and two military bases.

Today in Japan, 4 year olds use the public transit system on their own. There's even a children's reality show called "My First Errand" that follows children as young as two or three as they run errands alone, while being secretly followed and filmed. https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/408475/

On the other hand, today in the US, people are being prosecuted for letting their eleven year olds play in their own yard unsupervised. What is interesting is that by objective measures kids are safer today than ever.

3

My 7 year old (turned 7 for months ago) just recently earned the privilege of going to a nearby park alone. It's within sight of our windows, no more than 150 yards from our apartment. She's given a time to be back home and this far has always come in a few minutes early. She's loving the independence. To watch her, you'd think she was allowed to go across town alone (something that won't be happening for at least another year or two).

  • 1
    Can you add some of the boundaries you have laid out for her and the expectations you have? – SomeShinyMonica Sep 16 '17 at 9:19
1

This to me is too broad for any specific answer to work everywhere for all people. There are too many variances in locations where people live, local laws, and varying levels of maturity and reliability from one child to the next.

If it is within keeping with your local laws, and you feel solid that your child can handle the level of freedom and the child feels comfortable with it as well, then your child is likely old enough. There is no way to say what age that is though for any other person other than your own as only you know your situation as well as your level of need. If I do not need my child to go alone, then I often opt to take them. My son has a friend he visits in our area, not far away. He is generally permitted to go alone as long as he knows they are home & they know he is coming. He is ten. That is also permitted where I live legally. That said, my laws are rather arbitrary & it gives no absolutes, so they could also decide to charge me if he were injured in a way they felt I should have known could happen & that being older might have changed that outcome. So, it's a fuzzy area. Technically I could leave him home alone, legally. As long as nothing went wrong, if someone reported that I left him home alone, no one cares, it's not a problem. If though, while I was gone, he started a fire in my kitchen, then I could be charged because they might say at 15 he would understand safety better & I put his life at risk leaving him home when he was "too immature" to handle it. They could also determine it was just an accident & do nothing. So I can tell you I know that laws aren't always absolute or clear on age limits. I don't leave him home alone. I do not actually think he is ready for that, I was merely giving an example.

At this age I would not be comfortable letting him go to public places where others might be present. I do not have him go into a store alone unless it's a fast thing (like just grabbing eggs) and I am waiting in the car with other kids. He doesn't seem ready to me & he doesn't ask to do more, so I think he is aware he isn't ready either.

I would hope he will be ready by 15, at least for this area. If he was not, then I would look at working on ways to boost his self confidence & his ability to handle various situations he could run into & how to learn some trouble shooting skills. If we lived in a different area that age maybe could be older or younger, but for her 15 is about decent. I have 3 young ones & 2 grown ones & the grown ones walked to & from school by 12 when weather was good. They were allowed some small outings between then & 15, like I would take them to a location with friends, drop them off for a couple of hours and pick them up. To go completely alone, generally 15 was okay with me. They also could go like my son does now, to a specified house alone earlier than that.

As far as rules, well it's basic here. I told them things (when walking to school) like do not take a ride from anyone even if you think you know them, come straight home/go straight there, do not talk to adults you don't know If anyone makes you feel weird, trust that & go to the nearest house & knock on the door. Usually that alone is enough to make a weird person change their idea of they aim to target you. I also had them carry air horns when it was dark early in winter. If you blast that people will come to see what is going on. It also will scare off most animals. When they were older, the rules were things like no drinking, no going over to someone's house with no parents home, things like that.

0

Actually, I think about 15 or 16 with a friend. The world can be a dangerous place without guidance. For rules, I would say to learn some self defense in case of someone trying to hurt them, but I'd also say to stay focused on where you want to go, and not talk to strangers unless the strangers are authority.

  • 1
    one- or two-line answers without reasoning are not as helpful as answers tht explain why you believe what you do. There are many immature 15 year olds, and some very mature 12 year olds. – anongoodnurse Jul 24 '17 at 20:39
  • This is an extraordinarily extreme position, and it requires some justification. A generic statement that "the world can be a dangerous place" doesn't even come close. – Ben Crowell Sep 17 '17 at 3:37
0

Let's just say I'm a 14 year old girl and there's a huge list of what I'm not allowed to do like:

•Hang out with boys •get acrylics •wear crop tops •have to be home for 4:30 when I play out not. Minute later •Not allowed to dye my hair •be in bed for 8:30 Etc....

But these restrictions make me want to rebel. I've given up following these rules because I felt like I was treated like a toddler. Have rules but don't be extreme cause us kids will rebel soon enough and things will get out of control I stayed out after school til late once because I wasn't allowed to watch my friend have her nails done for no apparent reason they just were like no but I had enough and went anyways didn't tell them just rocked up home late

  • Please do not post on old questions, especially one as old as this. – Marisa Oct 2 '17 at 17:05
-1

Around the age of 8 you can let your kid or tween walk around large stores by them selves around 6-7 you can let them walk around small stores around 8 you can let your child go outside by them self around 9-10 you can let them go to a friends house by the self around 13-14 you can let them go where the Want by them self

  • 2
    Can you maybe add some references or examples of why this ages work to do these things? – L.B. Mar 26 '18 at 17:02

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