Prison Time for Letting Your 11 Year Old Stay Home Alone or Wait in Car?

Readers — Lest you think America is alone in going plumb crazy with worry for its kids in almost every situation, take heart! Australia is at least as terrified! As the dynsrheyzh
newspaper The Age reports
:

Parents who leave their children unattended in a car or at home face harsher fines and double the jail time under proposed laws.

New legislation will be introduced on Wednesday that will mean any parent leaving a child under the age of 12 unattended could face a jail term of up to six months or fines of $3690. It is not limited to cars and homes but means anywhere a child is left alone. 

Previously the fine was $2214 or a maximum of three months’ jail. 

Naturally, the impulse behind this legislation is fear for kids who die when unattended, particularly when in cars. In “recent years,” the paper reports, there have been two counts of this in Victoria, one of the six states of Australia.

That sounds like perhaps one a year, or perhaps even a couple years with no deaths. For this, Victoria appears poised  to criminalize all parents who trust their kid will survive in the car while mom runs in to pick up the prescription, as well as all parents who let their kid watch half a Harry Potter movie while they go to the grocery. Victoria’s seriously delusional Premier Denis Napthine is quoted as saying:

”Even if you’re saying you’re just going to the shop to pick up a bottle of milk, even if you’re saying you’re just going to pay for your petrol, never leave a child in a car because you could be held up.”

By “held up” I’m sure he must have meant detained, because of course if you are held up as in a gas station robbery, it’s probably best NOT to have your kid with you.

But really, Denis, what are the odds that when you are paying for your gas you are going to end up spending hours and hours while your car sits at the gas pump? Is there any connection at all between your fear and reality? Do you really believe it is always MORE safe to take a kid, or two, or three out of the car and across the gas station, vehicles zooming in and out, than it is to leave the kids  safely strapped in their carseats for the incredibly brief amount of time it takes to pay for petrol?

Meantime, can we talk about the “danger” of having an 11 year old stay home alone for any amount of time, which I guess could mean a few hours or even just a few minutes? As commenters here have noted before,  many of today’s parents remember babysitting at age 11. Heck, I was interviewed yesterday by a TV host who said she babysat at age 10! (Which reminds me, I’ll be on 20/20 this Friday night, talking about — what else? — kids in cars.)

Victoria: Come to your senses before you criminalize good parents making good decisions. Is that so much to ask? – L.*

*NOTE: The story sent to me yesterday from The Age has been updated to include a bunch of new caveats. When clicking on the link you can only get the new version now, though my quotes are from the older one.

Note to lawmakers: This was not a documentary.

Note to lawmakers: This was not a documentary.

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59 Responses to Prison Time for Letting Your 11 Year Old Stay Home Alone or Wait in Car?

  1. Sez August 6, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    Interestingly, this ridiculousness comes just a week after a popular Australian documentary series highlighted the importance of giving kids freedom and incremental independence as they grow up.

    The series is called ‘Life At’ and has followed a group of children since birth. In the most recent episode ‘Life at 9’ the researchers looked at the decline in kids having the freedom to, for example, walk to school by themselves or go to the local shops. They even had an experiment where they sent the kids off on a test run to their local shop (with cameras on them) and the results were interesting.

    You could really see how the fear some of them had instilled in them held them back (as well as other factors like lack of footpaths and stores close by). Of course the pride of one of the few kids who actually did it all on his own- and he was one of the most hesitant to begin with- was priceless!

    The series is here
    http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/life-at-9/DO1303H001S00
    I’m not sure if other countries can view it though.

  2. Neil M August 6, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    Perhaps Australia should simply cut to the chase and ban poor people and single parents from having custody of children, because that’s really what this is. Parents of privilege will rarely if ever run afoul of these proposed restrictions, but everyone else had better watch out. Wow.

  3. Warren August 6, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    16 yrs old to be the age that a child can be left unsupervised? That is impossible. Without locking bedroom doors from the outside, without gps monitoring and other prison security systems, you will never be able to supervise a 15 yr old 24/7. And for the record 16 IS NOT A DAMN CHILD.

    Australia has to call an election and get these idiots out of office.

    And this woman giving out examples of what can happen, has no idea of how cars work. Push button starters cannot just be activated by a kid, waiting in the car.

  4. Peter August 6, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    If the movie “Home Alone” was not a documentary, it should have been. We could use a true-life adventure of a child who is left alone for several days and manages to feed and groom himself, and stay warm and dry in a Chicago winter. He will regularly leave the house to meet with folks in his neighborhood, including a nice gentleman next door who helps look out for him and ultimately {SPOILER ALERT} gets him through his greatest crisis. Plus they catch the burglars.

  5. Curt August 6, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    It sounds as though any parent who let’s his or her kid play in the toy section of a department store (like I did growing up) will also be subject to arrestunder this Draconian law.

  6. octavio August 6, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Well, Denis Napthine has children so the only logical conclusion I can reach is that his children are so hopeless they would die sitting in a chair if an adult wasn’t watching.

    It would be nice to see Mr. Napthine spend a week with his children by his side. No doubt he would enjoy this experience and wouldn’t for a second consider leaving them alone for a few minutes.

    “Alright kids, everyone in the toilet! Daddy has to poop!”

  7. lollipoplover August 6, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    My 11 year-old babysits.
    She can also jump out of the car and run in to grab the milk or bike to the farm stand to pick up fresh produce.
    She loves to help and wants to learn more.

    This is called self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-esteem.
    Good parents recognize the key word-self. You HAVE to let them be by themselves to learn independence.
    To criminalize normal parenting practice and moronize kids under 12 as brainless babies makes no sense.
    If t

  8. BL August 6, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    What he says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpl4wkWMJtE

  9. Steve S August 6, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    Absolutely ridiculous. As bad as it is in the US, there seems to still be a sizable population of people that want to resist the nanny state. Is this true in Australia? Does this kind of stuff have popular support?

    I am reluctant to establish a bright line rule for when it is ok to leave kids completely unsupervised, as it depends on the kid and it should be up to parents, for the most part. My 11 year old is home by herself right now and she is certainly capable of handling it.

  10. baby-paramedic August 6, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    Denis Napthine’s government has made lots of people very unhappy. This doesn’t even surprise me for that government.

  11. Will August 6, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    I just last night left my three kids sleeping in our locked house while I went across the street to have a chat and a beer with a neighbor. The oldest is, in my opinion, mature enough to manage the other two, though by age the state would disagree. She also has an iDevice which she can use to send me text messages very easily, and I kept my phone on the table next to my beer so I’d see and hear any message that came in. And, yes, I left after they were all asleep, but I do this often enough that they know to ping me if they don’t find me in bed if they wake up. No one did, and I did a head count when I came home (not that I really needed to), all present and correct.

    Was I supposed to wake them up at 9:00 at night and take them with me? I was gone for over an hour, but I was *literally* across the street. We sat in my neighbor’s front room, and I could *see* the house from where we were.

    I guess in Australia this would make me a criminal. Where I live, it probably does as well.

    But a beer and some adult conversation, some time to decompress from being a parent all day, and talk about something other than Barbie and Hot Wheels is worth it, because it means I can reset and do it all again the next day.

    That’s what you call a risk-benefit analysis, and apparently lawmakers are incapable of making them. Hence the TSA’s draconian, idiotic and useless rules, arming civilian police with military hardware and tactics, and throwing parents in jail for being out of arms reach of their kids, no matter how old, for even a second.

  12. lollipoplover August 6, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    What about the 12 year-old who holds up the gas station?

    If you never hold children accountable for their actions, they will live up to your low expectations.

  13. Heather August 6, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    I left my mature 6 year old at home watching Harry Potter while I walked around the block to pick up dinner. She was alone for 10 min and I left my phone with her. She was alone for 10 min. No longer than it would take to shower. So, I guess I’m a criminal for trusting her (she was fine and perfectly happy to stay home). While she is young, she’s more mature than most 8 year olds I know. We know our children. Let us parent them. They need incremental responsibility that’s appropriate to their maturity level, not necessarily their age.

  14. Tanya August 6, 2014 at 11:19 am #

    When I was six and my sister four, my parents would leave us at home while they went across the back alley to their friend’s house to play cards after (insert gasp!) dark. In this time before cell phones, they would call their friends and then leave the line open at both houses. I was to yell into the phone if I needed them. Did I ever “need” them? No, and I took full advantage of this priveledge to stay up past my bedtime and watch tv.

    When a parent makes the decision to start leaving kids alone, no matter the duration of time, they are starting the lesson of building trust between kids and parents. I can see at this point, governments are trying to over-parent the parents and are themselves tearing down and not building trust in our governments. And then people wonder why younger generations are so inept at so many things.

  15. Lynn August 6, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    wow I’ve been leaving my kid alone for brief periods since he was 6. At 10 he’s often home for a couple hours on his own. My daughter started babysitting when she was 11…..

  16. Lynn August 6, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    and my husband and I often leave the boys alone (10 and 14 now) since they were 6 and 10. They knew our cell numbers and were to call in an emergency. An emergency to them was “do you mind if we pop some popcorn and eat it in the living room?”

    People just baby their kids forever. And then I, as a secondary teacher, have to deal with these kids that can’t cope with anything and their parents run ahead of them with a lawnmower, mowing down all obstacles in their way. *smh*

    how are the supposed to function as adults?

  17. Jennifer Griffin August 6, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Lock me up! I left my almost 11 year old in the car today while I went in to the post office and picked up our mail. She had just come out of the orthodontist and was drooling all over. I left the AC on and she locked the doors, but I suppose something COULD have happened. Better to humiliate her by making her go into the PO with drool down her chin.

  18. Warren August 6, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    Jennifer,
    Drooling? In a windows up car on a summer day? You are lucky the EMTs weren’t called to smash the window to rescue a child in distress!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Papilio August 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    I don’t understand a thing of that article. First it says you can’t leave kids under 16 unattended, then it says parents wouldn’t face jailtime for that, then a whole lot of other guidelines with age brackets in which kids can/cannot do X or Y, yada yada, I indeed do not see Lenore’s quotes in the article, and I must have missed where it says you’d go to jail when leaving an 11yo home alone – overall it seems this post was based on a different article entirely and the article lacks clarity on what “crime” exactly leads to what punishment.

    “Lest you think America is alone in going plumb crazy with worry for its kids in almost every situation, take heart! Australia is at least as terrified”
    The Anglosphere seems pretty uniform on this point. Although, the UK doesn’t have the climate for cooked babies in cars…

  20. no rest for the weary August 6, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    We’ve talked about this before: Now that nearly every obvious, major daily threat to kids’ health and well-being has been eradicated (bacterial infections, unpasteurized dairy, clean drinking water) in our pristine, affluent countries, we’ve decided that anything constituting even a minor threat to a child’s health and well-being can be tolerated.

    Because the goal is survival. If we keep it there, at the pure, animal place of survival, protecting our young, insisting they live to procreate another generation, no matter what is required, then we get laws like these.

    If we factor in things like learning, thriving, joy, meaning, purpose, community, and growth as necessary ingredients of a human life, then we stop getting laws like these.

    But I think we’re stuck at “survival,” because we got pretty good at it (TOO good at it, actually, as there are far too many of our species already and we’re exploding in our numbers) and now we want to be PERFECT at it. NO child can die. NO child can be injured. The extreme efforts that are made to keep people alive when they are at the end of life is also a part of this mindset.

    Remember quality of life? We need to refocus on that one. Hard.

  21. Liz August 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    Here in Alberta, Canada, kids can take the Red Cross Babysitting course at age 11 and be considered “qualified” to watch all children younger than them, including infants. My 13 year old just finished babysitting an 18 month old from another family — after 10 pm no less — just a few days ago. For money! The Red Cross is known for being rather *safety* oriented. But they are not even “cautious” enough according to these government busybodies.

    I realize that Australia is way hotter than up north here, but what the heck is going on that it is so dangerous to leave your child for just a few minutes in a car at a gas pump? Wild dingos? Crazed kangaroos? Are those sweet Koalas hiding a tiny knife in their tiny little hands ready to pounce in at any minute?

    Just another excuse to attack and undermine parents.

  22. Buffy August 6, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    What amazes me whenever the kids-in-cars topic comes up, there are always several (even on this site, but not on this particular article) who are all “but the heeeeeat”. I guess I don’t know the true makeup of the whole world, but I’m pretty sure that there are places in the US that don’t have killer heat 365 days a year. There are plenty of places that have temperate weather, and *gasp* even winter. Yet it seems that almost the entire never-leave-your-kids-in-the-car movement is based on heat. Maybe this is because no one can come up with any proof that kidnapping and molestation ever occurred while Mom ran in to pick up the dry cleaning?

  23. kate August 6, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    “Parents were often faced with dilemmas such as how to hold the hands of two children and carry a baby while they weaved their way through cars filling up with petrol”

    This is safer than leaving them in the car!? It is a good thing she is able to coordinate her life so that she never has to bring all three of her kids somewhere at the same time.

  24. EricS August 6, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    Wow. And would the “geniuses” that came up with this moronic proposal explain, how does this BENEFIT THE CHILDREN? Did they ever stop to think, this stupid thinking, would potentially destroy a family? And put the children in even more risk by subjecting them to a life with out a parent(s). Be put in a foster home? We all know the statistics of children in put into the system.

    The ironic thing about this, is that if these idiots succeed in getting this law passed, and crap happens to the kids when the parent(s) are incarcerated for 6 months, they will just turn a blind eye. They will not help the children. The stupidity of some people. These laws never existed, and never needed to exist for decades upon decades, generation after generation. Now in the last 10 years, it’s required? When statistics clearly show we live in a much safer time, than we have in the past when kids roamed freely, and without question from busy body, sanctimonious individuals.

    What needs to happen, is that people who interfere in other people’s lives, when it’s not called for, should be the ones facing fines or jail time. Because they mess up good family’s lives. That’s like them putting bullets in a gun, and leaving it out in the open, and then walking away.

  25. Andrea August 6, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    Dumb Dumb Dumb.

    Dumb because politicians think that if the just pass laws, bad things will stop happening.

    Dumb because it assumes that parents who leave their children in cars do so on purpose (almost all are forgotten), or that the parent doesn’t have enough incentive not to leave them in a car when there is a real risk of death or injury (e.g., leaving an infant in a car with no A/C on a hot summer day). Aside from that guy in Atlanta, I know of no parent who thinks, “Hmm, there is a good chance my kid will die if I leave him here, but I don’t care!”)

    The real losers here are the children being “protected.” I feel really bad for kids these days. My God we infantilize them to an insulting degree and, at best, we stress their parents out and, at worse, we separate these children from the parents who love and care for them, as they are now in jail.

  26. Warren August 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    You really have to look at the logic of all our gov’ts. They are legislating us into having a stay at home parent. We will have no other choice, because to do any less will be criminal.

    Yet everytime you hear an elected official talk about program budgets, finance and money, it always starts with, “based on a family’s dual income of…..”.

    Let’s face it, we are not represented in any gov’t by our peers, or someone that can actually relate to us. We are represented by the upper class. We fought revolutions against the upper class, only to vote them back in.

  27. Jennifer Hendricks August 6, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    I think I was 11 the first time I babysat an infant and toddler. I’d never even seen a diaper get changed before, and this baby had cloth ones with pins! I just studied the old one very carefully before taking it off. (The mom had been my babysitter years before, and she apparently had a lot of faith in me!)

  28. J- August 6, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    Holy crap! I called this two days ago in my comment about Harry Potter:

    http://www.freerangekids.com/not-that-i-want-kids-to-be-doing-this-but/#comments

    This is one of those moments that is literally beyond parody. When my sarcastic, hyperbolic comments get codified into law, we are doomed. DOOMED!!!

  29. Warren August 6, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    Ok Roger, you gave us a link, why?
    The police overstepped again, and improperly applied the laws.

  30. Andrea August 6, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    “[A] child aged 10-12 years can be left for up to 12 hours but not between 10pm and 6am. They must have a back-up adult available and can look after one or two other smaller children.

    Children aged 8-9 can be left for up to two hours as long as they are in safe circumstances and are capable of remaining so.

    Children aged 5-7 can play within earshot of an adult for 15-60 minutes, and a preschooler for 5-15 minutes. These younger children can be asleep or playing quietly and capable of remaining where they are.

    Toddlers and infants can be left momentarily but only when the child is asleep or in a safe place.”

    New South Wales has brought bureaucracy to parenting. Impressive.

  31. Roger the Shrubber August 6, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Warren – I thought that the link was another example of the type discussed in this article and others on this website. Sorry if you didn’t find any interest in it. If Lenore is looking for a comment section moderator, I will gladly give you a recommendation.

  32. Andrea August 6, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    This story prompted me to research the laws in California, where I live. According to this website (http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/caqhomealone.asp), California does not list a specific age that a child can stay home alone but instead provides guidelines and a set of questions a parent can use to assess their child’s ability to stay home alone, which I think is far preferable than setting a specific legal age.

    As far as letting children stay alone in a car, I use this test: Would I want to stay in a locked car on an 80 or 90 degree day, even for few minutes? Not likely. So I wouldn’t make my son (even though he is 10 and perfectly capable of being alone for a few minutes) do that either. If it were a cold winter day and I needed to run inside the gas station to pay for gas or something like that (truly a few minutes and not shopping for an hour or more), then I would have him wait in the car.

  33. Warren August 6, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    Roger,
    Was trying to figure out why someone would just post a link. Without your own comment or take, it just seemed odd.

  34. Papilio August 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    @Buffy: Yeah. But if it IS all about the heat, why don’t they just pass a law that says ‘don’t leave you kid in the car when the outside temperature is above X’ (maybe combined with humidity?)? For my part they add it to the local weather forecast when it will be dangerous to leave kids/pets in the car, or something.

  35. Papilio August 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    IF they pass a law.

  36. SKL August 6, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    Ugh. I just ticked off my sister. She’s about to take her kids over to hang out with my kids (they are with our other sister this week). She was all creeped out by some guy who was acting weird around her kid, and I do believe in listening to a mom’s creep-dar. But then she went on to say, “watch your kids, don’t let them out of your sight for a minute. I’m going over to see them tonight, I’m going to tell [our sister] don’t let them out of her sight.” I said, “I don’t like people talking like that around my kids. They are 7 years old, don’t you remember going all around by yourself at 7 years old? They are third graders. I don’t want them to be scared to leave my side.” She said, “but you have to tell them about safety.” “I have been telling them about safety for years. But ‘don’t ever go out of our sight’ is not part of the message I need them to hear. I don’t want them to be scared to walk down the street.” So she got mad and hung up. Sigh.

  37. BL August 6, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    @Buffy
    “There are plenty of places that have temperate weather, and *gasp* even winter”

    Winter??!! We can’t let kids out in winter!! They’ll freeze!! Or slip!! Or the Abominable Snowman will get them!!

  38. Havva August 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    I think this article and the comments provides some interesting insight into what may be driving some parental over protectiveness. Seems quite a few had too much freedom too quick, in a neighborhood without a community of adults watching their back. And they got into trouble with it. They don’t know what responsible and progressive freedom for kids looks like and so they over protect, and I guess some hope they can legislate their way to parents paying attention to the kids.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2014/08/slate_childhood_survey_results_kids_today_have_a_lot_less_freedom_than_their.html

  39. tdr August 6, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    And who is going to supervise the kids while the parent is in jail?

  40. Emily August 6, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Okay, major hole in all of this: Kids don’t have I.D., and some kids, you can’t tell how old they are. So, a parent could leave their early-developing nine-or-ten-year-old at home alone, or in the car alone, and nobody would blink, but a pre-pubescent twelve-or-thirteen-year-old could be mistaken for younger, and get the parents hauled down to the police station, where it’d be a whole bureaucratic nightmare to clean up, because honestly, how many parents keep their kids’ birth certificates on their person as a matter of course? Even if these rules were reasonable (and they aren’t; I’m sure I was left to play alone for longer than 15 minutes many, MANY times before I was five, and I lived to tell the tale), they seem almost impossible to enforce.

  41. Stacie August 6, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    It disturbs the hell out of me that in some states right here in the US I could go to jail for leaving my 4-year-old son in the car with my almost-12-year-old stepdaughter for three minutes while I run in to the drug store.

    When I was exactly her age (summer before 7th grade) I was babysitting 4-year-old neighbors for hours at a time, late at night, while my neighbors “played cards.” (I found out while babysitting for them that they were swingers–note to swingers: It’s not a good idea to store your “lifestyle magazines” and invitations in the downstairs bathroom vanity where your babysitter might go looking for toilet paper.)

    Anyhow, nothing bad happened, either to the kids as a result of having an 11-year-old babysitter or to me stumbling upon soft-core amateur porn and invitations to key parties.

  42. Warren August 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    I do not know what organization would do it, but someone has to start going to court and seeking injunctions to stop the passing of such laws.
    Would not doing so force the lawmakers to have to prove that these laws are in the best interest of the public?

  43. Jenna K. August 6, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    I babysat at age 10 for pay. I remember my first job–three-year-old twins. I would babysit them once a week in the afternoon so the mom could have some down time.

    My 11-year-old took my 2-year-old home from the park today. He was bored and she was getting into everything. I wanted to stay and chat with my other mom friends who were there and my 4-year-old wasn’t ready to leave yet, so I told my 11-year-old that he could walk his little sister home and reminded him what the garage code was. I stayed for probably 45 more minutes and then went home. He was in our living room playing a game with her where they rolled the ball back and forth. The house was locked, garage door closed. Sure, I could think of a million things that could possibly happen, but I could do that with me being in charge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of what would happen if I suddenly passed out or something. Would that make me negligent because I’d then be “absent” from my kids?

  44. Cliff August 6, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    Legislators are not ignorant, but they are power hungry. The police who makes the arrest gets paid overtime when they testify at the trial. They care not for the children or their parents. Their desire is for more power and money. The more they earn in their time on the police force, the higher their pension is. The prosecutors also benefit financially when they have more laws to enforce and more innocent people to send to prison. Of course, the prison guards are happiest when the prisons are full. It means an opportunity to make larger salaries. The police, prosecutors and prison guards contribute generously to the legislators and they all work as a team to enslave people who just wish to live a happy and prosperous life. In this case evil overcomes liberty.

  45. Nic August 6, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    I think you are trivialising the article,and perhaps need all of the facts about it before quoting a newspaper article. And I encourage your readers to look at in full. The reality is the other 30 children who were hospitalised include children who have long term effects from heat exposure. They didn’t call the ambulance for no reason.The reality in Australia is that we have extreme temperatures, and children can experience heat exhaustion and organ failure within a short period of time having been left in locked cars in the hot weather.
    And reality check about locking young kids in cars and leaving the AC on. It doesn’t always work fully when the car is in park, if the engine is on you are leaving a child in a vulnerable position where they can potentially put the car in drive. And children get distressed and exit vehicles.
    Whether it’s a one in a million chance or not, given you had a choice, and that your 2 minutes away could turn into 15 or 20, is it worth putting your convenience ahead of your newborn or your toddler’s safety.

  46. Nic August 6, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    Seriously Cliff,
    Conspiracy theories, really?
    I don’t know of any police or emergency services people who like to see the end results of neglect or negligent parents.
    Our services are overworked,and often powerless to prosecute those who really should be in jail.

  47. Heather August 6, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

    I live in Oklahoma where it gets really hot in the summer and I don’t leave my two year old in the car if I have to go in to pay. However, my eight year old is different. Because she can unbuckle her seat belt and get out of the car if she gets too hot. She is THAT smart. And I did leave both of them once because it has been a mild summer this year and it was an unusually mild day (like 75).
    Anyway, where I live it really is dangerous to leave the kids in the car, under certain conditions. But I highly recommend using your brain in determining what those conditions are.

  48. Yocheved August 6, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

    Good think I’m not in Australia. My 11yo has been walking herself to summer camp for over a month now. 6 whole blocks, plus crossing one busy street that has a stoplight.

    Oh, the humanity!

  49. ariel August 6, 2014 at 9:33 pm #

    starting at age 8, I was at home alone after school til my (single) mom came home around 6pm.
    I also used to read The Baby-Sitters Club books and therefore wanted to do some sitting myself. At 10, I took the Red Cross baby sitting course being offered (free!) at the library.
    I STILL WASN’T ALLOWED.
    my mother basically said I still needed a sitter myself/you never know if the person REALLY wants a sitter or if they’re just using that to lure you to their house to kidnap or molest you/it’s dangerous to put your name and number out there for random strangers.

    Even at age 21, a couple of us young adults from church were planning to go to the local amusement park, and mom chimes in telling the other two to “keep me close to the vest”. needless to say we wound up not going; no one wants to go someplace fun and have it turn into a babysitting job.

  50. Emily August 6, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

    @Yocheved–I lived in Australia for two years, and found it to be more free-range than North America by a long shot. Kids walked, biked, and rode the free bus to school, the mall, the beach, the library, the Botanic Gardens, and anywhere else they wanted to go. In fact, a lot of kids’ bikes had surfboard racks on them, because it was completely normal for kids to independently ride their bikes to the beach to go surfing. I also volunteered in two different Girl Guide units there; Brownies and Rangers, and Brownies there was a completely drop-off affair; even for the one girl in the group who was blind. Here in Canada, parents tend to escort their kids EVERYWHERE, and it’s much more common for them to hang around at their kids’ activities, which completely changes the dynamic. My point is, childhood seems to be a lot more alive and well in Australia, than across the pond.

  51. Havva August 6, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    Emily,
    For what it is worth… in my state you can get ID cards for kids from the DMV. It is my intention to get such an ID card for my daughter when she turns 8 (when my county’s CPS guide lines say she can be unattended for a little while). I also mean for her to carry that for presentation should a cop get called, which seems unfortunately likely. She is tracking lower than I did on the growth curve. And when I was in 4th grade people said I looked like a Kindergartener. I had to deal with legitimately concerned, but thankfully sane, adults on more than one occasion. I’ve had people come running to stop me from walking down the street. And moms have complained to librarians about my being alone. I’m just lucky I was born before people would call the cops about a competent kid not causing any trouble.

  52. Laura V August 6, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    It is so funny to read this, as my 11 year old is off babysitting right now. Granted, the parent works on the premises, but she is fully responsible for a 3 year old right now. And she will be walking home by herself, almost a mile! Get the handcuffs!

  53. Warren August 6, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

    Nic,
    Time to trade in that 70s Kcar.

    Dude, the ac in my vehicles maitain a set temp. no matter if the engine is idling, touring the town or doing mach chicken down the highway.

    Secondly there is no way in hell a toddler can put a modern automatic transmission into gear. They do not have the size or strength to do it.

  54. baby-paramedic August 7, 2014 at 1:36 am #

    We do have high temps in Australia. We do have kids that have died after being left in cars. even for relatively short periods of time. Including in my district (but I thankfully have not been to one).

    Ambulance not being called unless there is a reason? Police cannot medically clear. Some police officers call us for everything to medically clear, others tend to only call us if kids are involved or if there is actually a problem. People get touchy over kids being left in cars, or touchy over low speed accidents if kids are involved.

    Having said that. I have been to WAY more kids hit by cars than left in hot cars. The example about trying to pay for fuel, and it being safer to take all three children in to pay is ridiculous. I would wonder if there was something wrong with the parent if I saw them dragging all the children to pay for fuel.

  55. Stacy August 7, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    “Whether it’s a one in a million chance or not, given you had a choice, and that your 2 minutes away could turn into 15 or 20, is it worth putting your convenience ahead of your newborn or your toddler’s safety.”

    But we make those kinds of choices all the time. I assume you drive in a car with your children, which has a much higher risk of injury. I assume you don’t hover over your toddler as he sleeps, just in case he wakes up and decides to run out into the street or climb the bookcase. You are choosing convenience over the small risk of harm. In the specific case of taking small children to pay for gas (or pick up a pizza, etc.), in most circumstances the risk of injury is actually higher taking them out of the car, but even if it wasn’t, the risk of leaving the kids in the car is not so great that parents shouldn’t have the right to make that choice for themselves.

    The problem is criminalizing reasonable judgment calls. Certainly, there are legitimate cases of neglect involving leaving children in cars, but we can’t make running into the store with a ten-year-old reading in the car in 50 degree weather illegal just to stop parents from leaving their infants in hot cars for hours. That’s like making it illegal to drive with kids in the car to stop parents from speeding and running red lights while their kids ride unbuckled in the front seat.

  56. twinkles August 8, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

    I sneak out of my house to take care of my chickens in the coop (in my granny style night gown!) behind my house while my toddler sleeps in her crib. Even if she does wake up, the worst that can happen is that she will scream for 5 minutes. OK, really, she screams for an hour at a time with me in the house too!

    Parents today wonder why they don’t get as much done as our mothers did… well, this is it. We don’t because we can’t.

  57. Elle August 11, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    I don’t have statistics to back this up but it would be interesting to look into. I would bet that more children are killed or injured being hit by cars as they walk through parking lots, than the number who are injured or killed sitting unattended in a vehicle.

  58. AnnMarie August 14, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    I was babysitting by 10 as well. I didn’t *like* staying by myself at home but I certainly did. (I did have a brother 2 years old and we were likely together most of the time.) By 13, I was at Disney alone. And I’m pretty sure we spent nights alone w/o our parents at home, or not home till reallllly super late.

    And I’ve left my now-9 year old home alone occasionally for the last 3 years (10-15 mins back at age 6 of course). We don’t do it more only because *she* can’t be trusted to keep out of stuff that isn’t hers. She can stay alone for any safety reasons.