As far back as I can remember, I was always a latchkey kid. Mom worked multiple jobs and growing up in the center of Troy meant my schools were always within easy walking distance of home.

My mom wasn't detached or uninvolved, though. When she was home, we spent a great deal of time together and we talked about everything. There were little or no secrets between us, and she was upfront an honest about the dangers I might face if I talked to a stranger, answered the door for anyone I didn't know, or did something irresponsible or dangerous when I was home alone.

I think it taught me to be a more cautious and self-sufficient person, but I realize I had the benefit of having grow up in what was then a tiny town in which most people knew each other.

I got to thinking about all this because of an article I ran across from KPRC-TV, in which health reporter Haley Hernandez spoke with Houston Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious about the appropriate age to leave kids home alone.

The first takeaway that surprised me was that Texas doesn't have a specific age on the books. I did some Googling, and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services web page on Child Supervision confirms this. However, it is possible for officials to determine that a child was a victim of neglectful supervision.

The same page points out that there are very specific rules about leaving kids in cars. The short version: DON'T. EVER.

Back to the KPRC article. Mankarious suggests that the youngest age at which a child might safely be left home alone is 8 to 9 years. (Third grade.) A child of that age is likely to mature enough to understand when to call a parent or 911 and know the difference between people they should open the front door for and those they shouldn't. She recommends having a child this age call a parent before opening the door for anyone.

However, that's not Mankarious' recommended age. She tells KPRC kids younger than middle school age aren't ready to be left home alone, though it's up to parents to determine if their child is mature enough.

I clearly remember being home alone a few times in elementary school. I knew the drill, though. Lock all the doors, keep the TV volume down low if I turn it on, don't use the oven or stove, and don't answer the door for anyone who isn't uncle Larry or aunt Karen. I was also expected to call mom at certain times to check in and let her know I was ok. Again, that worked for our family because those relatives lived a couple of blocks away and we lived in a small town.

How old were you when you were first left home alone? Let us know in the comments. I'm curious to see what other people experienced growing up.

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