Too often, we think about home security in terms of protecting our belongings when nobody is home. But these days, your kids and teens could easily be home alone while you’re at work — and you want them to stay safe too.
Believe it or not, there is a new movement of latchkey kids, as American households typically need two incomes to create a home that thrives. Whether your kids are home alone often or rarely, you need a plan in place to ensure your home is always safe and secure. Here’s a guide to protecting your little ones, even when you aren’t home.
Install Home Security for Peace of Mind
These days, home security systems are incredibly complex. Just like systems of the past, modern security will alert you and authorities if a window or door is breached when it isn’t supposed to — but you can also install features like motion sensors, cameras and smart locks that give you real-time control over your home while you’re away. Thus, even when you are on a business trip to Los Angeles, your Denver home security services will alert you when your kids get home from school and allow you to check up on them throughout the night.
However, even if you don’t get a security system with all the bells and whistles, having a simple alarm will work wonders at keeping intruders away from your home and kids. Merely by posting the security stickers and “beware of dog” signs in your front yard, you can ward off opportunistic attackers; this is called “security theater”, but for many would-be burglars, it is an effective deterrent. Still, you should teach your kids how to use whatever security you install, so they know how to alarm the house when you aren’t home.
Set Rules, Expectations and Guidelines
Even the smartest security system won’t protect your kids if they don’t follow simple safety rules. For instance, alarms on your windows and doors won’t matter much if your kid has a habit of playing with fire or if your teen regularly stays out with friends until past midnight. It’s vital that you establish a set of strict rules regarding your children’s behavior when they are alone at home, such as:
- Be home by X minutes after school or work.
- Do not pick up the telephone or answer the door.
- Do not use dangerous appliances or objects, like the oven or knives.
- Check in with parent every X hours.
You should be certain that your kids not only understand the rules but also understand the consequences for breaking them. For instance, if your teen fails to make a check-in, you might garnish some of their allowance or ground them for one day during the weekend. Younger kids might have toys taken away for failing to follow the rules.
Befriend Neighbors and Kids’ Friends’ Parents
If kids aren’t ready to spend time by themselves — either because they are afraid of an empty home or you don’t trust their maturity quite yet — it is useful for them to have somewhere to go that has adult supervision. Neighbors can be especially useful; kids who feel uncomfortable at home can call or walk over to a neighbor’s home without much hassle. Often, older neighbors are happy to.
However, you should also make an effort to befriend the parents of your kids’ friends. Then, you can always find an adult to call to check up on the house or take your kids home for the afternoon, until you have time to make it back from work or other commitments. Often, kids won’t even realize that their play date at a friend’s house is an excuse to keep them supervised while you can’t be home to watch them.
When kids hit a certain age — somewhere between 10 and 14 — they should be responsible enough to start spending time at home alone. As long as your kids know how to get ahold of you, know various emergency numbers and know the rules of the house, you should be able to trust them without supervision. Still, it’s important to remember that even the most mature of kids shouldn’t be left alone for long; if your plans change and you’ll be away longer than a few hours, you should call on friends and allies to take your kids in. It takes a village to raise a child — and that’s as true in the modern world as it has always been.