It depends. Shockingly, Virginia law does not provide a specific age number for which children can be left home alone by themselves. However, The Department of Social Services (DSS) warns that age alone is never a good indicator of a child’s maturity level. In addition, DSS provides the following helpful guidelines when determining whether your child is ready to be left home alone.
- Your child’s maturity level – Is the child physically capable, of taking care of him/herself? Is the child mentally capable of recognizing and avoiding danger? Is the child emotionally ready to be left alone? Is the child mature enough to watch other children as well?
- The location and accessibility of the child’s parents – Questions to consider are: How close in proximity is the parent to the child? Can the parents be reached by phone quickly? Does the child know how to reach his/her parents? Are there other adults or family members nearby?
- The situation – Why are you leaving the child alone? Where are you going? What time of day are you leaving? Does the child have any medical issues? Is the child comfortable being alone?
In addition, there are certain ages that a child should never be left home alone. For example, the Fairfax County government website provides that children under 7 should NEVER be left alone. Basically, if you are unsure if your child is ready to be left home alone you should always err on the side of caution.