It’s a dilemma many parents have faced. You need to do the supermarket shop, but you have the children with you. So do you go through the whole palava of taking them in with you, knowing they’ll whinge throughout (and risking giving them a time out in the fruit and veg aisle). Or do you just lock the doors and whizz round child-free?
One woman who falls into the ‘leave them in the car’ camp has divided opinion online after admitting to letting her children stay in the car “for about 15 mins” while she did a quick supermarket shop.
“Today I left my 9 and 7 year old in the car alone for about 15 mins,” she wrote on Mumsnet.
Despite leaving the car “in the shade” on a “mild day,” the mum asked other users why “some people think I’m stupid for doing this” going on to query whether her actions were “really irresponsible?”
“What age would you leave your children alone for a short amount of time?” she concluded her post.
And other parents were quick to step in and offer their opinions on the divisive subject.
Some users were of the opinion that it was never ok to leave children in the car on their own, no matter their age.
“I just wouldn’t. The car being hot is not the only risk,” one user wrote.
“Nope never. Mine like to fiddle with buttons and things and would probably start honking the horn when they discover that,” another parent commented.
“Never, especially not so young,” agreed another parent. “I’d be concerned if I saw children left alone in a car. You may have genuinely concerned people alerting store security or police. Plus yes things that could go wrong.”
Other parents agreed with the original poster that it was acceptable to leave children unattended for a short period
“It’s fine! I leave my younger children. Probably not for a full shop because they get bored but certainly for a basket shop,” one mum wrote.
“I leave my 8 and 6 year olds all the time while I pop in to the shops and I have been doing it for quite some time,” another user agreed. “I leave the windows open and they are both happy reading books while I run in to grab whatever essential we’re missing. It is completely normal where I live to do this – people aren’t overly anxious about it.”
“I do it with my 4 and 7 year olds outside the local shop regularly. For 5-10 mins. They can’t accidentally start the car or take off the handbrake. The worst they have ever done is turn the music up really loud,” another user commented
So what’s the law surrounding leaving children unsupervised in the car?
According to the Government website there isn’t a specific law surrounding the circumstances in which you can leave a child.
“The law doesn’t say an age when you can leave a child on their own, but it’s an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk,” the site explains.
It recommends using your judgement on how mature your child is before you decide to leave them alone, eg at home or in a car.
- children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time
- children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight
- babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
It should also be noted that parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised “in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health.”
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