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Parents Worry About Tweens Left Alone

Poll finds they fret about kids' knowledge of safety, privacy, emergency practices, but will leave them alone anyway

FRIDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- Many parents leave their tweens home alone for an extended period of time, even though they are not confident these 11- to 13-year-olds have the knowledge or skills to stay safe, a new poll finds.

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health reports that parents it polled fretted over whether their children could safely use the kitchen appliances, know where to go during a severe storm or give out personal information online or over the phone. Still, one in five of these parents admitted they've let their tweens stay home alone for an entire day.

"There is no magic age at which a child can be left home alone. It typically depends on a parent's judgment about how mature that child is, and how ready they are to take on the responsibility of being home alone," Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll on Children's Health, said in a prepared statement. "Regardless, when parents decide to leave their children home alone, there are several common at-home safety concerns they need to consider and address with kids ahead of time."

The National Poll on Children's Health finds:

  • Almost two out of three parents let tweens stay home by themselves for one hour or two.
  • 20 percent of parents have left tweens home alone for an entire day.
  • Parents have more confidence that their tweens will follow guidelines for gun and fire safety than for Internet or storm safety.
  • More than 25 percent of parents polled said they had not talked much with their tweens about neighborhood, Internet or home safety before leaving them on their own.
  • The more confident a parent was in their children's safety skills, the more likely they were to leave them at home for more than an hour.
  • More than 28 percent of parents whose tweens stay home alone lacked confidence that their children would not give out personal information via the Internet or over the phone.

"We were surprised to find the proportion of parents who are not very confident their children will follow safety guidelines, even though they are having their tweens stay home alone," said Davis, an associate professor of general pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School. "This suggests that more parents need to have conversations with their kids about safety before they leave them home alone."

More information

The Home Safety Council has more about children and safety.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, June 10, 2008

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