FARGO — As schools let out for the summer, and child care costs continue to rise, many parents may be wondering if it's OK to leave their kids home alone.
Experts like Marlys Baker with North Dakota Department of Human Services Child Protection Services say there are many factors to consider.
"Every child matures at a different rate, every household in every neighborhood is different. So parents really have to take into consideration the maturity of their child, and all the arrangements in their neighborhood, the time and length of time the child is going to be alone," Baker said.
In both North Dakota and Minnesota, laws specify the age a child can stay home alone.
Baker said first, parents should figure out if their child is comfortable staying home alone. Then talk to them about home alone strategies.
"(Telling them) what the rules are, what kinds of situations can arise, you know, making sure that they know how to deal with emergencies, making sure that they have the maturity to make good judgments," Baker said.
Kids need to have access to a phone to contact emergency services. Some children might be fine watching themselves, but watching younger siblings may not work.
"Let's say the 13-year-old gets distracted by their video game. And the 4- and 5-year-old children are outside unattended and are running in a street that could be very dangerous," Baker said.
Brian Delaney has four kids ranging from 11 months to 16 years old. He started leaving the oldest alone around 13, but would think twice before doing the same with all of his kids.
"My 8-year-old, I wouldn't leave at home alone right away, because he gets a lot more distracted than my older two," Delaney said. "It goes very child dependent on how much they can focus and how self aware they are."
Delaney says the most important thing is just making sure kids are safe.
"Judge your kids, be honest with yourself on where your kids are at and what you've taught them. As well, as just how self aware they are," Delany said.
You can find additional guidance here.