Following the high-profile abduction cases that led to pictures of missing children on milk cartons and much more diligence on the part of parents, studies show that far fewer kids are home alone these days: The number of grade-school American children who spend time at home alone has plunged by almost 40% since 1997.
Yet there are still those situations when kids will be unattended, at least for a short while, as much as parents would like to avoid it. Or the kids will be old enough to be unsupervised, but haven’t quite proved they are trustworthy before that day comes.
In either case, your home security system can help. Below are nine ways you can use your home security or home automation system to keep your kids safe and your sanity intact when your children are home alone:
You can get alerts when a code used to unlock the front door, so you’ll know when your child has arrived home. If you’ve ever sat there waiting for a child to return a text message to you, letting you know they got home safely, you’ll know how nice this can be!
Window and door sensors can alert you when a window or door is opened, so you can check in with your child.
A video camera at the front door can show you (or your child) who is knocking.
If you’ve said no video games, you can monitor the room that has that tempting distraction with a video camera to make sure rules are followed.
A security video camera can also be used to monitor the yard (which is also helpful for those families who must leave a mischievous pet home alone).
If your child is too young or your teenager too forgetful for properly monitoring the heating or air conditioning, you can use your home automation system to regulate the thermostat.
Your home automation system can also be used to turn lights on automatically, either to make sure the house is lit when your child gets home on a dark winter afternoon, or to make sure your house is lit when you get home at the end of the day—because teenagers simply won’t think about it.
As a parent with a child home alone, you can also get peace of mind knowing your home security system offers fire, carbon monoxide and flood monitoring.
And if your kids need to leave the house, you can lock doors remotely should they forget.
Views about how much latitude children should have and at what age have changed drastically over the past 70 years, especially in the past 20 as we have turned into helicopter parents. (You can find a fascinating breakdown of changing parental attitudes over the decades by reading the results of this Slate study.)
My own kids are all grown and gone now and in their own apartments, and I still worry about them and wait for replies to texts so I know they’re okay. I guess some things never change, but at least technology makes it easier to keep an eye on them even when we’re not around.