A mother asks if it is neglectful to leave a 5-year-old at home alone.

Would you leave a five-year-old home alone if you had to run out for an errand?

What if she was “sensible”?

It’s the debate heating up the mothers on the UK chat site, Mumsnet, with the simple question provoking more than 200 answers.

A mother phrased it as “asking for a friend” who does it a lot.

Mumsnet user, Selly24, said her friend’s five-year-old often wakes up to find her mother is out and becomes upset.

She said her friend’s child didn’t understand the concept of babysitting and was “often left alone”.

The post was titled: “Neglect or just crap parenting?”

Would you leave a five-year-old home alone? Via IStock.

Another mother, Enb76, was quick to answer.

“I used to leave my five-year-old for about 10 mins to do an errand. I'm not a neglectful parent. I would never have left her asleep to wake up on her own. I'd tell her where I was going and how long I'd be. She's now still alive at eight and I am happy to leave her for longer periods. She's a sensible child.”

She was told quick smart: “That just means you're a crap parent too.”

The debate then began.


”People know their children and we need to remember there are children that young in other countries fending entirely for themselves. Neglect and abuse? No, potentially negligent? Yes, ever so slightly,” a commenter added.

Another was blunter: “Absolutely shit parenting whatever way you look at it.”


"Yep it's bad parenting and neglect," another said.

Mumsnet user, Witsender, said it was "not on" at the age of five. “What about if the parent was in an accident?” she asked.

"'I did it and my child is alive' is merely a sign of poor parenting," said another.


“Probably pilloried to boot," the teacher added.

But another Mumsnet member, named "Sohackedoff", disagreed.

“I spend longer than that up the garden sticking washing out and I leave my six and eight-year-old in the house. Front door is locked. I leave back door open so they can find me. I could have an accident. I could have an accident or die with them in the house. My kids go upstairs and play or out in the garden. I don't have CCTV on them, nor do I check them every five minutes. Do people not do that? What I do see is parents in parks etc ignoring their kids cos they are more interested in their phone. I think that's neglect.”


“I have a very well behaved three-year-old. I still panic if I need to run out to the car to get something," one mother said.

Another said that she found the whole conversation scary.

“A lot of you sound completely anxious. I fear you are also transferring that onto your children.

"How did we ever get to this? That mothers these days were unable to leave their children? For two minutes, " one poster stated.

"God give us strength. We, as a generation have gone quite badly 'parenting' astray here."


It’s a debate that most parents know well and often pops up on parenting forums.

Australian law is equivocal on how old a child needs to be before he or she is left unsupervised and for the most part it asks parents to make a judgement call based on each individual child.

There is no one law that places an age restriction on when parents can leave a child alone, according to parenting site Raising Children.

In Australia there is no "age " you can leave a child home alone. Via IStock.

Queensland is an exception. In Queensland, if you leave a child under the age of 12 alone without appropriate care or supervision for an ‘unreasonable’ length of time then you can be charged, but the question of what is an unreasonable length of time is open to interpretation and depends on the circumstances.

The conversation on the site showed the extremes of parenting. Via IStock.

“She's generally in exactly the same place I left her. She knows how to ring my mother if she got worried. I think many parents can be overprotective and stifle children’s' independence. The risks are no greater than they were in the 70's when I was left at home for hours and had access to a swimming pool.”

“I had a sensible mature five-year-old and I now have a sensible, mature and very independent eight-year-old. Life is a risk - I weigh up the risks and decide which ones are worth it. The risk of my child being a pita because I've dragged her away from the exciting chapter is more likely to happen than me coming to a sticky end by walking down the road to get some milk.”

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