It's not unusual for kids to spend some amount of time alone at home. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, an estimated 40 percent of kids spend time home alone. Children who head home from school and stay home alone until a parent gets off of work are commonly referred to as latchkey kids. If your child will be spending time alone at home after school, try these safety tips to keep everything running smoothly this school year.
Video monitoring equipment is becoming more affordable every year. As part of your latchkey arrangement with your child, consider monitoring the entrance of the home to make sure your child arrives safely from school. Try a small camera with an app that lets you check visuals on your phone. In addition to using video monitoring, you may want to install keyless entry devices on your doors, so that your child isn't carrying a key home from school. (Best Buy, $129)
It's hard to imagine that when we were children, there were few ways to check-in beyond using a landline. Today, kids who are allowed to head home from school unsupervised can be tracked via GPS. This gives parents peace of mind when it comes to knowing their child has safely arrived to their destination. Amber Alert GPS comes with a panic button for your child. (Amber Alert GPS, $220)
Before your child can stay home alone after school, make sure he or she has the maturity and tools needed to succeed at being home alone safely. He or she should know their full name, address and phone number. Your child should know exactly how to contact you and other immediate family members. You should give him or her clear directions on how to handle emergencies as well as unexpected visitors. Consider establishing a very clear routine, such as a light snack, television time and homework. Make sure a trusted adult is available to respond in case of emergencies.
When your child is going to be spending time alone, it's very important to set firm ground rules. Teens who are left unsupervised may be especially at risk of engaging in dangerous behaviors when left alone. Frequently talk about drugs and alcohol, and let your child know whether or not it's okay to have friends over. Set parental controls on the television and computers. Keep in mind that if your child has a smart phone, they'll have access to just about anything.
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