Should Rhode Island Tell You When You Can Leave Your Kids Home Alone?

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Proposed bill tells parents when children can be left unattended.

While we aren’t a parent, we know a few and as best as we can tell, most enjoy the experience. Like anything, however, it’s not without its downsides. As best as we can tell, the worst is unsolicited advice from…well…the world. Just because someone doesn’t know you…or your children, doesn’t mean that they don’t get to tell you how to raise your kids.

Some parents do need the advice. As should be readily apparent, physical reproduction is an order of magnitude easier than modern childrearing.

Now, the “There outta be a law” crowd has gotten together with the “Let’s let a few idiots ruin everything for the rest of us” crew and introduced Rhode Island Senate Bill 2104, which declares how old children can be before they’re left in their house alone.

1 SECTION 1. Chapter 14-1 of the General Laws entitled “Proceedings in Family Court” is hereby amended by adding thereto the following section:

Age restrictions for children. – Children under ten (10) years of age shall not be left home alone.

Children at least ten (10) years of age and not more than twelve (12) years of age shall be allowed to stay home alone for brief periods of time, but not after 9:00 pm.

Children over twelve (12) years of age may be left home alone, but not overnight.

Parents and legal guardians should use their judgment to access[sic] the maturity and responsibility of their children and to discuss safety procedures and precautions before deciding whether to leave their child(ren) home alone.

At face value, a lot of people most likely won’t find this all that objectionable and on the face of it, it’s pretty reasonable. The problem is, despite a call in the last sentence of the law, this proposed law doesn’t allow parents to assess the maturity and responsibility of their child(ren).

For instance, you have an eight-year old who’s sitting in their room, quietly working on their homework. You’re in the middle of baking when you realize have to run to your neighbor’s house to grab a cup of flour. If you don’t grab your child and drag them along with you, you’re now breaking the law.

Now, chances are, you won’t get caught. But should you really have to worry about getting caught? You love your child and do everything reasonable to protect them from risk. Will anyone’s life be made better after the State House has decided to make more arbitrary ages set in legal concrete?

If someone is a seriously bad parent who is neglecting or abusing their children, there are already laws on the books to prosecute them and protect the children.

And if there’s an inevitable victim of this proposed law, it’s going to be the single mother who will find herself dealing with Child & Family Services because she had to get to work the day her babysitter was running 15 minutes late and she wasn’t counting on the nosy neighbors calling the police because she left her nine-year-old alone at home.

If Rhode Island does want to make laws in regards to matters that are typically relegated to the realm of common sense, we’d like to see some research which establishes that there is a clear problem with Rhode Island’s children being left unattended at too young an age and the predicted efficacy of the proposed law. Otherwise, we’re just allowing Sen. William Walaska [D] and Sen. Roger Picard [D] codify what they define as normal, to the detriment of Rhode Island parents’ good judgement.

Fortunately, after a Judicial Committee hearing Tuesday afternoon, the committee recommended measure be held for further study. We’re hoping this as far as the bill goes.

Alternatively, if we’re going to start laying out a legal framework for every aspect of childrearing, we have a list of things we’d like to see Rhode Island’s parents instilling in our children. For instance, the word “peasants” has fallen out of fashion and we’d like to bring it back and we’ll use legal means if necessary.

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Childhood Correspondent

Tristan's just this guy, ya know?