Did you know parents can be fined or jailed for leaving primary-school-aged children home alone?
However a new survey by The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia has revealed one in 10 children under 12 will spend the school holiday alone without supervision.
Parents are risking fines of up to $1650 and even jail time for leaving young children home alone due to financial pressure and job pressure limiting their choices.
Queensland is the harshest – and most specific – state when it comes to punishing parents for leaving children home alone. Parents risk up to three years in jail for the crime of "leaving a child under 12 unattended.”
In Victoria the fine is $1650 and up to three months in jail for "leaving a child unattended." It's covered under the Child, Youth and Families Act stating that parents "must not leave a child without making reasonable provision for the child's supervision and care for a time which is unreasonable having regard to all the circumstances of the case."
There have been 24,000 reports of "inadequate supervision" of children to the NSW Department of Community Services. NSW doesn't state an age at which children can be left home alone and deals with reports on a case-by-case basis.
In the NT and South Australia there is no legal specification as to when a child can be left home alone either.
Tassie parents risk up to three months in jail for leaving young children home alone without good reason and also doesn't specify an age.
Most parents caught are dobbed in by neighbours.
It's a big shift in attitude from the days of the "latch key kid". Generation X is often called the "latch key kid generation", with parent from the mid-70s and well into the 90s often leaving children home alone either before or after school.
My son has just turned nine and I've started a new job where I commute to and from the city three days a week. I'd just been toying with the idea of having him catch the bus home and let himself into the house (I'd arrive home around 30 minutes later) when I came across an article listing all the punishments parents can face for doing just this.
Children under 12 aren't meant to be left home alone without good reason but I know families who do. The children in question are mature and well-behaved. Sometimes they are 10 or 11 and are left in charge of younger siblings while parents grocery shop or perhaps for an hour before mums and dads arrive home from work each day.
Stefanie Mullen at Ooph has created a handy checklist for parents before leaving kids alone for the first time: