(ARA) – Millions of American kids come home to or leave an empty house every day. Yet many don’t fit the stereotype of a “latchkey kid” – a child in a single parent household whose custodial parent is at work when the school day ends or begins.
“Today, a kid is as likely to come home alone because his parents are off shuttling siblings to football and dance practice as he is because one or both parents are still at work,” says home security expert Jeff Butler, of Protect America.
The practice of a child entering, staying or leaving a home alone spans income levels, ethnicity and family composition. It seems self-care of school-aged children is here to stay. Increasingly, parents are using an existing technology – home security systems – to keep tabs on their home-alone children.
“In the early days of home security, the systems basically were designed to just keep the bad guys out,” says Butler. “Now, many parents are also using them to ensure their children safely enter and stay in the house.” Home security systems like Protect America’s GE wireless system allow users to program multiple access codes, receive phone alerts when the system is armed or disarmed, check the status of the system from any phone, arm or disarm the system from any phone, even communicate from inside the house directly to the monitoring service.
If your child ever enters, stays in or leaves your home when no adult is present, be sure he or she knows how to do so safely.
* Every child should memorize his own full name and address, and home, work and cell phone numbers of each parent. Also keep this information posted next to the phone at home. If your child is too young to memorize this information, he may be too young to be home alone – for any time.
* Teach your child to be observant when she returns to the house. If a door or window is ajar, or she has any reason to suspect someone has been in the house that shouldn’t be, have her call you, then wait at the nearby home of a neighbor who’s agreed to act as a safe house.
* Caution your child to never answer the doorbell or telephone when they are home alone. Likewise, set a ground rule that he or she must never play outside the house in the front or back yards when no one else is home.
* Be sure he or she knows how to disarm and arm your home security system. Program your control panel to page you when your child enters or leaves the house, and arms or disarms the system. If your child forgets to rearm the system, or tends to forget to secure the locks, you can call him with a personal reminder.
*Consider adding a 2-Way Voice feature to your existing home security system, or installing a new system that has 2-Way Voice Monitoring – like Protect America’s GE wireless security system. The optional 2-Way Voice feature enables your monitoring facility to communicate directly through the control panel with a child or any family member in the home anytime that an alarm is triggered. This same feature also allows you as the parent, to call into your system and be able to listen to any activity or speak to your child or other family members who are home at that time.
“Many parents realize that home security systems can not only keep the bad guys out, but help keep their children safely inside the home when parents can’t be there with them,” says Butler.
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