Home Alone After School: A Safety Guide for Kids

For some families, there is no way for older children to be home alone after school. This is not a new phenomenon, but what is new is a host of new technologies and devices that make it easier for parents to track and increase the safety of their children between school and school. parents return from work. And it goes way beyond a simple home security system.

While there is no fixed or agreed upon age for which it is appropriate to leave children home alone, the US Children’s Bureau offers some guidelines regarding assessing children’s maturity levels. Most parents can’t even trust the law to determine when it’s okay to leave kids home alone, because according to the Children’s Bureau, only three states (Illinois, Maryland, and Oregon) have such laws. the book.

Here are some tips, technologies and tricks to help parents keep children safe when they are home alone after school.

Prepare before your child needs to be home alone

Is your child ready?

Before deciding to leave your children at home, consider their maturity level. While some children might be left alone, not everyone would be comfortable in this type of setting.

Ask yourself these questions to determine if you may need to make alternative plans:

  • Hourly: Is this recurring time at home alone or one-off? Will your child be home alone in the morning, afternoon or evening?
  • Comfort level: Is your child afraid of being home alone? If they need help, are they comfortable talking to adults such as neighbors or rescuers?
  • Compliance: Do your children generally follow the rules you set? Do your children avoid telling you when something is wrong and they need help?
  • Responsibility: Are older children responsible for caring for younger ones – and if so, are they mature enough to take on this responsibility? Can your child accurately judge what is and is not an emergency and can choose to call 9-1-1?

A contingency plan in advance

One of the best ways to prepare your child to be home alone is to have an open and honest discussion with them. Before the big day, sit down with your child and see what to do in an emergency. Better yet, have them write down the answers to these questions themselves, so they will remember them for sure. Want a printable version of these questions?

  • Information 9-1-1 would need to know
  • Child’s name and nearest cross streets
  • Trusted neighbors and friends to contact in an emergency

Child Safety Technologies

Smart home camera

A smart home camera is one way to keep your kids safe and give parents extra peace of mind. “Parents today are living in interesting times – they don’t know how and when to use technology to keep tabs on their children,” says Ben Nader, general manager of video solutions at Ooma, which manufactures smart cameras. With DIY home security cameras increasingly finding their way into homes, Nader says parents can use these cameras to keep tabs on their children’s whereabouts. Some cameras, such as Google Nest cameras, even have rolling features that allow cameras to detect familiar faces, a technology that can give parents additional insight into the whereabouts of the house while they are away.

Smart doorbell camera

A doorbell camera is another option. “Parents tell their kids not to open the door, but kids tend to ignore this rule when the uninvited guest might be a friend,” warns Justin Lavelle, communications manager at BeenVerified, a verification platform online history. “Although peepholes are a safety measure, they do not prevent strangers from seeing your child through adjacent windows, and some children cannot reach peepholes either.”

He recommends a smart doorbell camera or video doorbell that detects movement as you approach your front door or someone rings the doorbell and sends you a notification. This allows parents to stay on top of visitors at the front door while they are away and children are home alone. “Nest, Ring, Swann and Arlo are just a few of the many brands offering such monitoring devices that connect to your smartphone via Wi-Fi and an app,” he says. “Some smart doorbells even have a feature that allows owners to communicate with their surprise guest from a remote location.”

GPS watch for children

While a smart camera is great when kids come home from school, they don’t offer much for the time between a child leaving school and returning home. A children’s GPS watch gives parents additional visibility into a child’s return trip. These watches have a GPS capability that allows parents to find the exact location of the watch, so as long as a child is wearing the watch, the parent can make sure they are where they need to be. Another feature common to these watches allows parents to program a defined number of phone numbers with which the child can communicate by phone call or SMS. Sten Kirkbak, co-founder of XPLORA, a European manufacturer of GPS watches for children, points out that some watches may also specify geolocated safety zones. “If the child enters or leaves the area, the parent will be notified,” Kirkbak said.

Tracking apps

Instead of getting a GPS watch, Lavelle recommends downloading a tracking app. “Installing a tracking app on a smartphone will let you know the exact location of your children, so if something goes wrong (like taking the wrong turn at home), you can help them out. they need.” If your kids are old enough to have smartphones and are responsible enough to keep up with them, this is one of the cheapest ways to monitor their location. A few of these child tracker apps include Footprints, AngelSense, and Life360.

Computer monitoring software

Children often come home from school and jump onto the computer – and the Internet – to start doing their homework. However, the Internet can also present risks if children are not supervised while using it. “Without someone to monitor the websites they access, children can come across inappropriate content that is not healthy for young eyes,” Lavelle warns.

Plus, you don’t know who they might be interacting with online. “Children are likely to trust strangers they meet online and give out personal information,” he says.

“Software such as K9 Web Protection, Norton Family Online and Net Nanny allow parents to control what their children have access to on the Internet.” Lavelle also recommends that parents set timers for how long children can play computer games, to limit eye strain and balance online time with more active time.

“With the number of children and teens online increasing year on year, cases of cyberbullying, sexting and online threats continue to thrive just as quickly,” says Titania Jordan, parenting manager at Bark, an Internet parental monitoring company.

Smart locks and home security systems

A home security system can help protect children from intruders and also detects smoke and carbon monoxide leaks. However, children who are home alone will need to know how to disarm the system to reduce false alarms and also communicate verbal passwords to the alarm company. If law enforcement is routinely sent to a home for no reason, it could result in penalties and fines depending on local ordinances.

Tips and tricks to prepare for being home alone

Daily Discussions

While technology can help keep children safe when they are home alone after school, communication is also crucial. For example, Kirkbak recommends quick morning discussions before school. “These chats are a great way to make sure your kids know where they need to go when the bell rings,” he says. “These memories help reinforce the message that good communication between children and parents about where each other is is important.” These kinds of conversations can help children understand that they shouldn’t make the spontaneous decision to stop by a friend’s house without asking permission or without communicating their plans.

No baby

Also, if this is the first time your kids have been home alone, you may need to make the process easier for them. “Since processes like disabling the internal alarm can be too stressful to begin with, perhaps consider disabling them for the first few days until they have gained more confidence,” Kirkbak said. .

“You could also consider little things, like keeping a few lights on in the hallway to avoid a completely dark house on your return, or perhaps leaving the radio on and leaving a little surprise, to help create a more welcoming and warm atmosphere for you. a child to go home. ”

Sten Kirkbak, co-founder of XPLORA, a European manufacturer of GPS watches for children.

Have a backup plan

Additionally, it is a good idea to have a backup plan. For example, even if you are using smartphones or smartwatches, think about what would happen if your kids lost their devices. One way to solve this problem is to print physical copies of phone numbers that can be displayed on the refrigerator or put in your children’s backpacks, so they always have a way to contact someone in case emergency.

Know your neighbors

It might also be a good idea to make sure your child knows they need to go to a trusted neighbor who can provide help when circumstances warrant.


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Susan W. Lloyd

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