Slow Economy Means More Children Home Alone

After a couple of young kids drowned while swimming unsupervised in Jacksonville, Fla., the state said it is seeing an uptick in the number of children who are left home alone as parents work two jobs and scramble to keep their lives together.  

I wonder if the "trend" can be proven somehow and whether it translates into juvenile problems, injuries or other trauma.

Are summer daycare facilities noticing any effect? Are kids who might have once participated in summer activities now home because parents can't afford summer camps or care? How have city/country budgets affected summer pool hours or other activities where kids might have gone to keep busy and stay safe?

As you will see from this chart, a handful of states have guidelines but no rules about when it is OK to leave a kid alone.

Interestingly, the U.S. Census Bureau says higher-income families, not lower-income families, are most likely to have unsupervised kids. offers some additional resources:

"7 million of the nation's 38 million children ages 5 to 14 are left home alone regularly. The data show:

  • "600,000 5- to 8-year-olds fend for themselves.
  • "3.4 million children are under the care of siblings
  • "The average time 'home alone' is 6 hours per week.
  • "Higher-income parents are more likely to leave kids unsupervised."

  • added:

    "The Census Bureau found that 15% were home alone before school, 76% after school and 9% at night. Presumably, the 9% have parents who work night shifts.

    "One-half of all children in the country age 12 to 14 are home alone an average of seven hours a week. The very poor in America are less likely to leave their children alone at home, or allow them to go home alone, than families who earn twice the poverty income. This is probably because the very poor live in less safe neighborhoods, and have fewer friends or family who can step in, in case of emergency. In spite of the hours spent on the job, working mothers spend an average of five-and-a-half hours a day with their children. "
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      Al Tompkins

      Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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