What Age Should Kids Be Allowed to Walk Home Alone?

The recent horrifying murder of an 8-year-old boy from Brooklyn, New York as he walked home from camp by himself has moms across the country asking wondering: Is it okay for my kid to walk home alone? 

Safety expert Debra Holtzman, author of The Panic-Proof Parent and The Safe Baby, stressed that there isn't one right age. A general guideline is between age 10 and 12, but it really depends on the maturity of your child, the environment that she's in, and your own comfort level. What is key: Your child needs to prepared and to be able to handle the following tips.

Review the route: When you feel your child is ready to walk home alone, walk with the child the first several times, both in the morning and in the afternoon. Instruct your child to always walk on the main sidewalks and not to take shortcuts through woods or empty lots.

Choose a buddy: Have your child walk with another child whenever possible -- there's safety in numbers.  

Prepare for predators: Teach your child common tricks that abductors may use, such as asking a child for directions or help finding a puppy. Warn your kids that strangers should not ask children for help.

Show her how to call for help:  Give your child an emergency-only cell phone -- and a whistle to blow if she’s in danger.

Recommend reliable adults: Tell kids to look for a police officer or a mom with kids if they do need to ask for help. 

Teach self defense: Advise your kids that if someone tries to take you somewhere without your parents permission, you should scream, kick, and yell loudly: ‘This not my father/mother’ and quickly run away from them, if possible.

The "right" age really varies with both parents and kids. Here's what parents are saying on iVillage Facebook's page. What do you think? 

"Eight is definitely too young. More and more I see children even younger than eight walking or riding bikes to school by themselves. I don't understand how parents just trust that they will be ok. There are some sick people out there and it's a parents job to make sure that their kids are safe," -- Maria A.

 "I didn't let my son walk alone until high school and before that, it was the buddy system." -- Natalie R.

"Eight years old is too young to be without a buddy." -- Vicki B.

"It depends....parents have to decide when, where and how far. It's a different world from even when my kids were that age." -- Ruby S.

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