Leaving children home alone
September 30, 2009 6:05 AM   Subscribe

Is leaving a 10 year-old and 8 year-old home alone child endangerment? If so, what is the penalty in Illinois?

Want to leave kids alone for 45 minutes or so while I go running in the neigborhood while my wife is abroad.

I love my kids and wouldn't knowingly endanger them and I don't believe this would endanger them but I guess I have to think about Illinois law and whether I should break it.
posted by qsysopr to Law & Government (52 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Illinois law defines a neglected minor, in part, as "any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor's welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare of that minor."
posted by The Deej at 6:12 AM on September 30, 2009

(BTW: First result for Google search of illinois child laws home alone.)
posted by The Deej at 6:14 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has this to say:
Illinois law defines a neglected minor, in part, as "any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor's welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare of that minor."
posted by Mitheral at 6:16 AM on September 30, 2009

And you're unlikely to ever face a judge who considers 45 minutes "an unreasonable length of time" so you're (legally) fine here. From a safety standpoint, of course, kids vary in maturity: some would probably be fine, some would be risky to leave alone. Whatever they're like, you'll definitely need to instruct them and test them on what they've learned.

One of a billion anecotes you'll hear: I was alone for a couple of after-school hours every day, from the age of 9 onward. Generally, I let myself in with a key, ate cereal and played with Lego. I also knew that I was supposed to run to the neighbor lady's house if something went wrong, but that never happened.

I didn't feel very endangered.
posted by rokusan at 6:17 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Please do not do this. This story is not intended to scare you but only to make you aware of the unexpected. Recently in my neighborhood a father left his children home when going to visit the neighbors for something. He left two children unintended one 3 years of age was sleeping the other was 9 years of age watching TV. The 9 year old played with the stove and caught toilet paper on fire and the toddler was killed in the house fire.

What I would recommend is maybe joining a community gym, many have free childcare available on premises or you could try getting to know your neighbors and see if they would be willing to watch your children for the said time. If they to have kids they would most likely be more than willing to watch them if you provided the same in return whenever they were in need.
posted by lwclec072 at 6:18 AM on September 30, 2009

The answer really is, do you trust the kids to not do stupid things when you aren't looking? And to not freak out if something bad happens?
posted by gjc at 6:22 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

However Illinois appears to be at the upper end of the age range; many states allow latchkey kids to be home alone at much younger ages. Where a hard guideline is given 12 years of age is common. Maryland and South Carolina set eight as the age and Georgia nine.
posted by Mitheral at 6:23 AM on September 30, 2009

Do you let them play outside without being with them? I think it sounds fine, maybe bring a cell phone/walkie-talkie to keep in contact if it makes you or them feel better. But ultimately, it depends on the maturity of your children (and whether the younger one will mind the older being in charge). In addition to not being "an reasonable length of time" you are also ensuring their health and safety while out so "without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare" doesn't really apply to you either.
posted by saucysault at 6:24 AM on September 30, 2009

Also if your children enjoy biking, you could bring your children along on the run. They might not be able to keep up with you or vice versa but at least it would ease the worries of leaving them home alone.
posted by lwclec072 at 6:24 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Unreasonable" is the key word. Forty-five does not seem unreasonable to me. Of course, if something dreadful happens and the news catches wind of it, five minutes can be made to seem reasonable. It's really about the maturity and education of your children. Without engaging in experimentation, are your kids likely to fetch an adult if there is a problem? Are they likely to create a problem?

I'll throw on an anecdote: I was a latchkey kid, from quite early on, and would occasionally miss seeing my parents entirely during a day. Nothing bad happened, although I was, in my mother's description, "the most boring child ever," so I wasn't prone to random experimentation in drinking things I found under the kitchen sink (Thank you, Mr. Yuk — sick, sick, sick).
posted by adipocere at 6:25 AM on September 30, 2009

If you're that paranoid, perhaps you could have them ride bikes alongside you while you run?

(Then again, I was allowed to roam with my buddies from age 9 or ten to a range of about 3 miles. In the city.)
posted by notsnot at 6:28 AM on September 30, 2009

It really depends on the kids, but a 10 and 8 year old should be able to spend 45 minutes without getting into trouble. Even if one of them does start a fire they're old enough to run out of the house.

I don't leave my (7 year-old) son alone in the house for that long, but there's plenty of times when he's outside while I'm inside (or vice-versa) for at least that long.

You need to talk to them, discuss where you'll be, who to go to for help, The Rules if anyone calls, etc. If they seem like they understand everything then you should be fine. If they're unclear, then perhaps you should stay home.

One thing that you need to think about is, would your wife be ok with this? If she calls while you're out and your kid says "daddy went running", will she be cool with that? If the answer is "no", then you should probably stay home. If you weren't planning on telling her you should expect she'll find out. "And daddy let us stay home alone for 45 minutes!"

Can you alter your route and just run around the block ten times?
posted by bondcliff at 6:38 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a friend in elementary school who was often left alone from the age of 6 or so for short periods. 6-year-old me was freaked out at first, but after being in her house sans parent for a while, it seemed totally normal. Now I think it's cool that they were able to teach her to be responsible enough to handle herself without burning the house down or anything for an hour or so.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:38 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't think 45 minutes would be unreasonable. Also, if your kids are responsible, and you're sure you can trust them, it could be okay. I was left alone with my 6-year-old sister for a couple of hours every Friday night starting at age 10. We ate the dinner my mom made us and watched TGIF. It might be good to make sure your kids have an activity that can preoccupy them, like a game or a video that will take at least 45 minutes.
Nothing bad ever happened, but I was a very responsible kid and would have never screwed around with the oven or anything dangerous at all. We also knew our next-door and across the street neighbors really well, and my grandparents lived 5 minutes away, so it may have been safer than your typical kids home alone scenario.
posted by ishotjr at 6:39 AM on September 30, 2009

Our parents certainly left us for an hour when we were that age, even younger, with the strict instructions not to touch the stove, oven, etc.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:42 AM on September 30, 2009

We were always given the emergency plan before our parents left us alone for any length of time - call the neighbors if you need help, if it's really serious then run over there and knock on the door. Emergency numbers were all programmed into the phone. This was before cell phones were really ubiquitous, so you could have them call your cell if they need something. I think the important thing at that age is that they have some amount of assurance that if something goes wrong, they can call for help and won't get in trouble. If they're afraid of getting punished while the kitchen is on fire, they're not going to call the fire department.

Anecdotally, we lived in Germany when I was ten and I went to school in the major city, about 45 minutes away from our home. I took the train home alone when I needed to stay after school for stuff.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:05 AM on September 30, 2009

My sister and I were left alone for that period of time at those ages. I don't think it's unreasonable. But I'll add the same caveat others have: we were both responsible little kids who really wouldn't have played with the stove, and also would have known what to do in case of fire. (That's the only risk worth worrying about in this circumstance - house fire. Have you gone through with your kids what to do -- run out of the house, don't try to call for help from inside?)
posted by palliser at 7:06 AM on September 30, 2009

I have a couple of friends who were injured from falls from bikes in two separate instances and both were taken directly to the hospital. Neither of them had small children at home.

Now, I know you will be running, not bike riding, and I'm sure you'll be really careful, but what if something went wrong and you couldn't get home.

Do you have a neighbor or friend or relative your kids can call on for help if you can't get back home? Make sure your kids know how to reach them. When you leave, make sure they understand what time you should be back.
posted by marsha56 at 7:08 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

While I am in favor of it being probably ok for you to do this, I agree that you really have to know your own kids. I offer this datapoint: A friend left her 12-year-old for about an hour and came home to find him sitting in the hall facing the front door holding a butcher knife. He was terrified. My kids were fine being left alone.

Set some strict rules - no using the stove OR THE MICROWAVE, of course no matches or knives, etc. Give them some specific things to do - watch this video, read these books, etc.

Another idea about bringing them with you: high school track. They kick a soccer ball on the field while you run the track. Or better yet - JOIN them in kicking and running up and down the field. Same amount of exercise, infinite 'dad points'.
posted by CathyG at 7:09 AM on September 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

Don't leave the dryer on when you're gone.
posted by artychoke at 7:12 AM on September 30, 2009

I'm not sure where I stand on main question, but I will say that if you do decide to leave them home, I would look into first-aid and CPR training. I don't think those ages are too young to learn those skills, but if they are, I'll bet there's still some sort of emergency preparedness class for kids.
posted by chndrcks at 7:16 AM on September 30, 2009

Totally anecdotal, but at the age of 10 I was regularly keeping my 8 year old brother out of trouble while the two of us were home alone, sometimes for hours on end. This included cooking meals(mostly hamburger helper, but still.. cooking..) or knowing how to order out and stay within the budget of whatever amount of money was left for us, sometimes doing laundry, and making sure we were both bathed and in bed when we were supposed to be if it got that late.

Obviously you're not asking this much of your own kids, and just because I was in that situation and came out mostly ok doesn't mean it's appropriate for your or anyone else's kids. You know your children better than anyone, so my advice is to make sure they know what's off limits, what to do in an emergency, quiz them on it, and if they seem solid, then give them the chance to take care of themselves for a short time. It could be a good confidence booster, too.
posted by owtytrof at 7:28 AM on September 30, 2009

Can you find a track to run around, and bring the kids along? They can kick a soccer ball on the field or read a book or play a video game on the sidelines. It sounds like you think they could be fine at home alone, but if you have any worries this would sidestep the issue.
posted by JenMarie at 7:30 AM on September 30, 2009

Carry a cell phone!

But I agree with the people who say take them along, they should get into the habit of daily exercise too.

My kids are in their thirties now, back when they were young most parents I knew would not even have considered asking this question. I even left sleeping children in cars while I bought groceries. Back in the 1950s when I was young my parents left me, at age 9, alone in charge of 2 younger sisters.
posted by mareli at 7:31 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't do it without picking a friendly neighbor, informing the neighbor whenever you're going to go running, and giving your kids the neighbor's phone number and instructions to go there in case of trouble. If there is no such friendly neighbor, it might not be such a hot idea.

I'd also bring a cell phone and give the kids the number to it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:32 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also if your children enjoy biking, you could bring your children along on the run. They might not be able to keep up with you or vice versa but at least it would ease the worries of leaving them home alone.

The law of unexpected consequences would make doing this very frustrating, especially when you are trying to go for a run.

They'll be safe for 45 minutes.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:32 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

CathyG's idea of taking them with you to the track or field to kick a ball and run around is awesome, as is chndrcks's advice to get them some first aid or emergency preparedness training. I was pretty nervous the first few times my folks would leave me alone (or in charge of my five-years-younger sister) for any period of time, and I was probably about eleven when they started doing that. I took a 4-H babysitting class at the community center when I was 12 and from then on, even though I'm still kind of a twitchy easily-scared sort of person, I felt much more confident about handling anything that might come up.
posted by Neofelis at 7:34 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was a latchkey kid from 1st grade on in the middle of Queens, NY in the 1970s. I typically didn't have any supervision until early evening (6-6:30pm). I had common sense and a good handle on what to do in case of an emergency. I comfortably used the stove to cook for myself since the age of 7. My mom started as an ER nurse when I was 7, working 11pm to 7am, so I spent most nights alone; I was completely confident staying alone and my mom had no worries about leaving me alone.

I remember this one time when I was 8, Mom had this macrame owl hanging in the kitchen and there was a loose thread and I decided to trim it. With a lighter. The entire owl went up in flames. I used my quick-thinking-fire skills to quickly put the damned thing out. No damage done. 29 years later and my mother STILL doesn't know.

The point being, no matter how much common sense your kids have and no matter how much trust you have in them and they have in themselves, kids are still prone to acts of sheer stupidity and short-sightedness. I still think leaving them alone is probably OK, but the last thing I would say before leaving the house would be, "don't do anything stupid" followed by a long stretch of eye contact to communicate the fact that you both know just what "stupid" means.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:36 AM on September 30, 2009

Previous AskMe (though involving younger children.)
posted by applemeat at 7:40 AM on September 30, 2009

They'll be fine.
posted by zeoslap at 7:43 AM on September 30, 2009

What everyone else said -- don't leave any machines on, carry a cell phone, and maybe run shorter loops around your neighborhood for forty-five minutes instead of a straight line out to wherever, or whatever you usually do. Then you'll be close at hand if they need you, and you can look in halfway through for a while until everyone's comfortable.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:47 AM on September 30, 2009

I used to go out horseback riding by myself at age 10.
(Ended up rupturing my spleen, but it wasn't because of my age)
posted by SLC Mom at 7:52 AM on September 30, 2009

I'm in Illinois. That's a reasonable age. The law is worded ambiguously to give a judge some leeway. You're not running over to the racetrack to get a bet in and losing track of time being gone 6 hours. You will have your cell phone and they will have a neighbor to contact if they can't reach you.
I routinely left kids 8 and up for short periods, usually when I was picking up or dropping off their siblings. Kids got stuff to do and don't always want to be dragged along (but if they want to bike along side you, win/win).
posted by readery at 7:58 AM on September 30, 2009

When I was that age I was also left alone for longer than that. I could also roam around the neighborhood and make rafts out of plywood and styrofoam and float down the nearby creek. I'm sure it depends on the kids, but people seem overly protective these days.

Perhaps it's my own media-driven paranoia, but in some ways I would be more wary of going to the neighbor and announcing that my kids will be totally alone for the next 45 min. I guess it depends on how well you know your neighbor.

Of course, I have no kids.
posted by snofoam at 7:59 AM on September 30, 2009

Another idea: my mother used to park us (4 and 6 years old) on the couch while the baby was sleeping and walk around the block, so she could see us through the curtains everytime she went by and we could flag her down if the baby woke (very strict instructions not to get off the couch, we probably looked at books or something...)

Anyhow, could you run a loop by your house every 15 mins and peek in the window?
posted by lemonade at 8:02 AM on September 30, 2009

I think they'd be fine, but it really depends on their personalities.

And to add another perspective, I have really fond memories of my dad taking me to the local high school track while he ran. This was when I was 8-9 years old. I would ride my bike around on the pavement, or we'd bring a soccer ball and I'd kick it around.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 8:03 AM on September 30, 2009

Hey - that's a good idea - if your kids have bikes, get them to ride beside you as you run.

I'm not saying that because I think your kids need supervision (Illinois law aside, 8 and 10 are old enough to home alone for an hour), but because when I was a kid I loved going cycling with my dad. It would have been fun to go cycling when he was running - I could race him.

But that wouldn't be any good if the reason that you run is not just for exercise but also for a little alone time. In which case, I would just leave them in the house. If you're terribly worried about the legal implications, you could call the local children's services (anonymously) and ask questions about the enforcement of the law, because they would be the people you would be reported to.
posted by jb at 8:12 AM on September 30, 2009

Echoing what others have said, it's reasonable if:

1) Your kids aren't mischievous demons like I was (my sister and I were compelled to bake something every time my parents left the house because we weren't allowed to cook otherwise. We also roasted mini-marshmallows from hot chocolate packets on toothpicks over the gas range. And once colored my black & white tuxeo cat's white bits blue with a Crayola magic marker). Though I guess my sister and I both turned out ok, despite the fact that when my parents started leaving us home alone for entire weekends as teenagers we threw fantastic parties without their knowledge.

2) They can reach you if they have to (carry a cell phone).

3) They know what to do in emergencies. Do they really know what to do if there's a fire, or would they try to grab toys or pets? What if someone knocks on the door -- would they open it to see who it is? Do they know not to tell people on the phone or at the door that they are home alone? Do you have a meeting spot outside the house for emergencies (like a neighbor's house)? I wouldn't only tell them what to do, but even have a few practice drills.
posted by tastybrains at 8:14 AM on September 30, 2009

I wouldn't do it. My kid isn't two yet, but I haven't met a ten-year-old yet that I'd leave in charge of my house. Nothing terrible is likely to happen, but it easily could, and you wouldn't be there to handle it. If I were you (and I'm not, and I don't claim to be), I'd find another solution: either include them in some way, find someone to watch them, or find a way to exercise at home.
posted by wheat at 8:16 AM on September 30, 2009

It's really not about the law, it's about safety. Your children will probably be safe, but no one can guarantee that. No one can or should tell you, "They'll be fine." Of course, no one can guarantee they'll be safe on a school bus, or in school, or even in your home when you are there. Things happen. Chances are, they'll be safe for 45 minutes. Do have a neighbor they can contact. Do not stop to chat with anyone else. Do not come home even five minutes late. Shorten your first couple of runs to 20 minutes and see how they handle that. Most kids will spend the first couple of times anxiously staring at the clock, but then they'll adapt.
posted by clarkstonian at 8:21 AM on September 30, 2009

I'm assuming that if you're running for 45 minutes, you are never more than 25 minutes from the house, assuming you are running, turning around and coming home.

My two boys are teenagers, and we started letting them be by themselves for short periods (say, running to the corner store to get eggs) when the oldest was 12 and the youngest was 10, and then gradually built it up so that now that they are 14 and 16 we can go out on a date without worrying. We have, on rare occasions, even left them overnight. We let the next door neighbors, the grandparents, their friends' parents and their emergency contacts know, stocked up the fridge, made sure the relatives have their health insurance cards and doctor's number and of course called and checked in.

They guys know how to heat up food in the microwave, have our cell phones memorized and are pretty responsible. They have asked to be left alone for longer periods of time, they've never had a party (one of the reasons we let their friends' parents know when we are gone!) or gotten into trouble on their own, and they know no one can come over when we aren't there. So far, so good.

So, although at first 45 minutes seemed a while to me given their ages, I think it would be fine provided you have a cell phone and you let the kids know you are going, when you will be back, and how to reach you, and maybe do a couple short trial runs to see how it goes.

One thing--Please do NOT try to just slip out when they are sleeping unless you let them know you might do this before they go down for a nap--that's a good way to traumatize a kid, waking up to an *unexpectedly* empty house.
posted by misha at 8:31 AM on September 30, 2009

I also think they'll be fine (my husband was looking after his three younger siblings at that age), but I'd say ... work up to it. The idea of doing loops around the block, at least at first, so you can stop in and check every 15 minutes or so is an excellent one. Also, frankly, it lets them know that while you expect to be gone 45 minutes, at any time you could be home sooner, which is another deterrent toward mischief.
posted by anastasiav at 8:49 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ask your wife, for sure. She is going to find out anyway, and you don't want her saying "You did WHAT?!!"
posted by orme at 8:54 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Maryland and South Carolina set eight as the age and Georgia nine.

Not to take care of younger siblings, though (just in case anyone thought that was license to leave an 8-year-old in charge of a 4-year-old, for instance). That's the youngest any child can be at the house without someone older in charge.
posted by palliser at 10:04 AM on September 30, 2009

Sounds fine to me, but it depends entirely on your children.
I frequently watched my three younger brothers while my parents were out to dinner and a movie (or a basketball game). Before this happened, my folks sent me to the local Red Cross babysitting program, and I had learned basic first aid in scouts.
The babysitting program covered some basic care, entertainment, and lots of “what to do in case of _____”.

Yet another anecdote:
While my parents were at a basketball game, my brothers and I (11 at the time) were eating mac and cheese (with cut up hot dogs!) in the family room while watching MacGyver (ah, those truly were the days), one of them decided to head off to the kitchen and surreptitiously open a half-gallon container of ice cream for some dessert. The container had a plastic seal around the top, so he got out a brand new and very sharp 10” serrated bread knife to cut it open. He ended up slicing straight across his left wrist and started screaming. I ran into the kitchen, saw the cut, and immediately knew to apply pressure and get out a clean kitchen towel, place it over the wound and apply more direct pressure - and call 911. It helped that the kitchen phone had a speakerphone and I knew how to use it.

The 911 operator kept me on the line and gave instruction until firemen arrived, and then I called my parents using the list of emergency numbers taped to the wall above the kitchen phone. I spent the next 30 minutes frantically cleaning blood from the kitchen, terrified of the thrashing and yelling I would surely receive when my parents returned from the hospital with my brother. I was very suspicious at first when I was greeted with hugs, especially when the hugs got tighter and tighter…

My wife had a very similar experience while watching her brothers as a kid, though hers was a choking experience and she administered the Heimlich, as taught in the Red Cross babysitting class her parents sent her to as well.
Of course, her parents called the local newspaper and got a human interest story written up on her. Cooler than mine.

My advice:
Don’t ask strangers if your kids are capable of handling themselves alone for 45 minutes. Only the parents and close family/friends know this.
Send your eldest to the program.
Run with a cell phone.
posted by terpia at 11:02 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

The worst case scenario, by the way, is that something horrible happens while you're gone, your kids die or get taken into foster care, and you go to jail for child endangerment or criminally negligent homicide or something. That strikes me as exceedingly unlikely, but part of your question was about worst case scenarios, so there it is.
posted by decathecting at 11:06 AM on September 30, 2009

Read this and then think about it.
posted by tommasz at 12:02 PM on September 30, 2009

i hope you're smart enough to ignore (or at least serious deprioritize) the stories of 4 year olds and younger who died in some terrible accident. i think you're plenty smart enough to know that 3 kids aged 3 and younger shouldn't be left alone for an indeterminate length of time.

another anecdotal story - my oldest brother is 3 years older than me and there's one brother in between us. we started being left alone for 3 hours or more when my oldest brother was 9 or so. i was left alone by myself for the first time when i was 8 or 9.

if you know that your kids aren't the kind to drown each other or set fire to the house. if you can lay down for a nap in your bedroom while they're awake and not think twice about it - you'll be fine.

as others have said, carry a cellphone or walkie talkie. that makes them even safer than any of us were as kids.
posted by nadawi at 12:46 PM on September 30, 2009

Going from 0 to 45 minutes is a big leap. It makes far more sense to build up independence (and test things out) over time. Start with a walk to the mailbox or something along those lines. But make sure they can run to a neighbour's or something. When people say, "Oh, my parents used to leave me alone all the time", this was often in an era when there was a neighbour or someone they could connect with. When I was a kid, they had a Block Parent program, but they shut that down a few years ago because there simply aren't any parents at home very often anymore.

But 45 minutes is a long time. 5 minutes is a long time. I was an incredibly responsible 9-year-old. But when a guy came to the door and said he was a realtor, while my mom was on her way to the corner store, I let him. He said he had someone who wanted to buy our house and I knew my parents were hoping to move. It seemed like a legitimate reason -- he had a briefcase, business card, suit, etc. Fortunately, my mom was about three houses away and could see the car pull in. When she got there, I was in the living room, giving him a tour and explaining that it had likely been converted from a garage and what further renovations my parents had made. I knew I wasn't supposed to let anyone in. I had never let anyone in before. But he seemed to be reasonable and a professional, so I let him in -- and took on the very adult task of giving a house tour. I knew I wasn't supposed to let anyone in, but he wasn't "anyone".

And I was a kid who was allowed to roam through farm fields, play in the creek, play in the woods, walk through the inner city to a program, etc. I was smart and savvy. Perhaps a little too smart, as I rationalized through the rules and broke them.
posted by acoutu at 1:57 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm the mom of a 16-month-old. I admit that I have a lot of mom paranoia, but leaving two children of those ages alone is not a good idea. There must be a neighbor or high school kid who can come over and watch the children for you--or take them on a walk themselves. You can hire a babysitter for this very purpose. Paying someone $10 for an hour away is not a bad idea.

The bottom line is kids cannot make good judgments. You should not put this level of responsibility on children, no matter how "mature" they seem.

What does your wife think of this idea?
posted by FergieBelle at 5:19 PM on September 30, 2009

No one can or should tell you, "They'll be fine." Of course, no one can guarantee they'll be safe on a school bus, or in school, or even in your home when you are there. Things happen.

Things also happen while you're home. When they're in school. While you're sleeping. Anyone who's ever had a kid further than arm's reach away knows that they can get into trouble or hurt themselves in about two-point-five seconds, and there's nothing you can do about it... you cannot ever be that vigilant without imprisoning them under a video camera. Kids will get into trouble and get hurt. They will. It's part of being a kid.

I realize that 'American-style' parenting has taken a very sharp turn away from risk and toward paranoid total-safety over the last generation or two, but you can't raise kids in a bubble and expect no ramifications. If they never learn responsibility, never feel fear, and never get hurt.... they might just become horrible, helpless and damn-frightening adults.

They've almost certainly been 'alone' (unattended, unnoticed) for more than 45 mins before, even if you were 20 feet away.

They'll be fine.
posted by rokusan at 5:40 PM on September 30, 2009

"... I realize that 'American-style' parenting has taken a very sharp turn away from risk and toward paranoid total-safety over the last generation or two, but you can't raise kids in a bubble and expect no ramifications. If they never learn responsibility, never feel fear, and never get hurt.... they might just become horrible, helpless and damn-frightening adults. ..."

Philosophically, I'm with rokusan. But on the off chance you want to turn your home into a remotely viewable Panopticon, it's not that hard or expensive. You just need the appropriate number of wired or WiFi cameras for the areas you want to surveil, a router (with WiFi, if you go wireless), a PC to act as a lightweight video server, and, perhaps, an appropriate video server software application (depending on what kind of operating system and software the computer you'll be using has). It's all pretty simple to set up. You can then check your home remotely from any Web enabled smartphone.

Don't forget to turnoff the broadcast when you get back home, unless you want your wife or other Internet connected party to be able to see you at home, too.

Of course, I think it can be argued that watching your kids at home on remote Web cams may not do much to build their self-reliance, nor will it really do much for your training ritual, but it's technically feasible, and if your budget can handle it, just having the capability might be enough to keep your peace of mind.
posted by paulsc at 8:59 PM on September 30, 2009

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