What age should you be leaving your kids at home alone? The law might have the answer.

 Would you let your children walk home from school alone or look after themselves while you pop out to the shops? It’s a controversial subject among parents and often a tricky situation to get your head around.

On one hand you want your children to start gaining some independence, but on the other, you’re fully aware of all the potential dangers to your child’s safety.

A lot has changed since the latch key generation of the 1970s and 1980s, and there are laws around whether children can be left alone.

As Lawyer Lisa Flynn recently wrote for, Queensland is the only state that specifies that a child must not be left alone if they are under the age of 12.

With seven kids living under her roof, Dr Ginni has found some creative ways to raise them.

The Queensland Criminal Code, section 364a, under the title “Leaving a child under 12 unattended,” stipulates “that a person who, having the lawful care of a child under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time, commits a misdemeanour.”

If found guilty of breaking this law, the punishment carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.

The laws in other states don’t name an age when it’s a appropriate to leave your child alone, but they do state that parents are expected to provide their children with adequate safety and supervision and must act.

If something was to happen to your child while they were left unsupervised the courts will have to determine whether the considerations for your child’s safety appear ‘reasonable’, otherwise you could be breaking the law.

If your child is walking to school by themselves, the court would look at the age of the child, the distance they travel, how often they’ve gone on that walk, and the time of the day, to determine reasonableness.

If you leave your child with an older sibling who is under the age of 18, the test of reasonableness would still apply, and depending on the older child’s maturity levels and capacity to care, a parent can still be found negligent.

kids home alone
It's up to the parents to make a common sense judgement about whether they should leave their children unsupervised. Image via iStock.

Age also plays a role - it may be reasonable to leave a 10-year-old home alone while you duck out to the shops, but if you did the same with a three-year-old, that would be considered negligent.

So it's up to the parents to make a common sense judgement about whether they should leave their children unsupervised.

However, parents do disagree on what's common sense and what's reasonable.

As Mamamia previously reported, last year Mumsnet user Selly24, asked the forum whether they would ever leave their children at home while they ran an errand.  She said her friend’s five-year-old often wakes up to find her mother is out and becomes upset.

This sparked a heated debate with parents falling on both sides of the argument.


One mother said she used to leave her five-year-old home alone while she ran 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 wrote.

While others disagreed and thought she was being neglectful.

"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.

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

Six kids and no sleep: the life of Dr Ginni Mansberg.

While another parent argued that she spent more time at the washing line and that wasn't considered neglect.

“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.”

At what age would you leave your children unsupervised?