How old should your child be before they stay home alone?

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – With summer break approaching, parents will have to decide whether to find a babysitter or let their children stay home alone.

“There’s no set age in the Ohio Revised Code for parents to leave their children alone,” said Youngstown Police Department Investigator J.D. Rowley. “Obviously you’re not going to leave a 4-year-old home alone. They don’t have enough sense to know how to get a phone in case of an emergency.”

YPD arrested Te’erai Gordon Wednesday morning after a neighbor found her 4-year-old son crying outside of their house. He wandered down Brockway Avenue near the street’s busy intersection with Connecticut Avenue.

Gordon told police she left him with another kid who was supposed to watch him, but he left because he had to go to school.

With no set age, how can parents decide if their children are ready to stay home alone?

Rowley says parents should ask themselves how responsible their child is and if they are comfortable being left home alone.

The Ohio State University Extension says parents should look at their child’s physical, intellectual and social readiness. This includes being able to use the phone, follow emergency directions and feeling confident taking care of themselves.

“Practice. Just ask your child, ‘What would you do if somebody came to the door and you didn’t know them? What would you do if you smelled smoke?’” said Mahoning County Children’s Services Executive Director Randy Muth. “Gauge your child’s reactions.”

Babysitting other siblings adds another level of responsibility a child needs to be ready for.

“Kids 10 to 14 tend to get distracted pretty often. They’ll be engrossed in video games or a television show and may not be paying attention to what their younger sibling is doing,” Muth said.

He suggests watching how the older sibling reacts while home with them.

If they aren’t ready, several organizations throughout the city offer summer camps for kids.

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