That’s the question Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart is answering this week in his back-to-school safety tips column.
“Working parents are viewing the start of school as an opportunity that they might not need babysitters after school,” said Lenhart. “Is you child old enough to stay home by themselves? If the child is 10 or older, they may be ready to stay home along for a short period of time.
“The maturity of the child must also come into play,”” he said. “Try leaving the child home for a short period of time while you go to the grocery and see how they do.”
Children 13 to 15 years of age, said Lenhart, should be able to stay home along after school if it’s for a period of approximately three hours.
“But they should never stay along overnight,” he said. “Leaving the 13 to 15 year old along also depends on your neighborhood he said. “These are all considerations you should look at if your child is staying home along.”
Some tips parents should follow if the child is staying home along include:
• Have a list of emergency numbers which includes the parents’ cellphone number, work number and a neighbor’s number.
• Have a first aid kit on hand.
• Discuss an escape route with the child if the house catches on fire or there’s another type of emergency.
• In case of a power outage, have flashlights available.
• Set limits on what they may cook while a parent is not home.
“Three hundred kids are hurt daily while cooking,” said Lenhart. “Leave instructions for your children on what they can cook. Put all the rules on the refrigerator.”
Parents, he said, “should require the kids to know the safety rules. Make sure they have the number of grandparents or neighbors who they can call. Have people call the kids to check in with them. And the adults can also drop in at the house to check on them.
• Assign chores or homework that must be done on a daily basis.
• Remove guns, knives and ammunition from the house or put it in a locked box.
“Six thousand people are shot yearly,” said Lenhart, “and 1300 of them die.”
• Lock up poisons and medicine. Make sure the medicine cabinet doesn’t have expired prescriptions in it.
• Make sure the child locks the door and sets the security system while they are home alone.
• Tell them not to answer the door if a stranger is knocking.
“Parents should go over all the guidelines to staying home along with their child,” said Lenhart.
“Check on them while they’re home alone. A parent can do a friendly call to their child. If there a two or three children at home you know as a parent how things are going If it’s quiet, it’s going OK. If it’s very noisy, it might not be going OK.”.
Lenhart also said his deputies have observed changes in traffic since the beginning of school.
“There’s a lot more traffic on the road,” said Lenhart. “The deputies are seeing inattentive driving, an increase of speeding and drivers who are not coming to a full stop at stop signs.
“Drivers need to start earlier and go slower,” he said.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.