South Meets North?

Yesterday, Jane (9) had a play date with a little girl who came to our house.  They were engaged in completing their homework so I left them alone for about 20 minutes while I ran to pick up my older daughter, Ana (12), from school.

While driving back from Ana's school, I got a call from the little girl's mom who was noticeably upset that her daughter was home alone with Jane at my house.

I felt a little blindsided by her reaction and, naturally, feel terrible.  More because I feel like I was negligent in not telling this mother that I planned to leave her daughter alone for a few minutes than anything else.  We've been letting Jane stay alone periodically for about nine months now--just during short trips while I run to get Ana or dog food.  She's almost ten years old (Oct. 11), she knows all the rules about answering the door and what to do in an emergency.  I didn't even think about speaking to the other parents about this. That's the chief thing I feel badly about.

I asked my friend Tiff about this.  Tiff understands my Southern roots, but she's very much a Northerner so she explains things to me, especially when I have a blind side.  She said, "I think this must be a regional thing.  I remember a while back you saying something on your blog about unfounded worry about leaving Jane home alone and I was very surprised.  I never left any of my kids home alone until they were ten, and then it wasn't for more than half an hour and only when I was going somewhere in the neighborhood and could be home within five minutes if anything came up.  It wasn't until they got toward the outside end of eleven that I'd actually leave them home alone for a couple of hours, and if [my daughter] had a friend over and I went out I'd call the parents and make sure it was okay to leave them alone up through 7th grade.  When she was in 3rd-5th grade, I had other parents call me a few times to ask whether it was okay to leave her with her friend's older sibling who was 12 or 13, too.  I think maybe the norm is different from place to place based on...I don't know?  General sense of danger that comes from your atmosphere?  How sheltered kids in general are?  I read this before I left work and I've been thinking about it on and off since and I haven't been able to think of a single person around here that I can ever remember having left a child under ten home alone for more than maybe a five minute emergency dash to the pharmacy or something like that.  I've always gotten the impression from what you wrote that Texas is kind of a gentler, less aggressive environment where you can better count on your neighbor (or maybe even a stranger on the street) to be available if a child needs something and I wonder if that isn't the root of the difference."

I do think this might be another North meets South thing.  (Maybe.) It might also be kid-specific.  Jane is so smart and capable and we've drilled the protocol into her. Really, Jane is so trained that when I go get Ana, if she has chosen to stay home, I get at least one call from her asking for permission for something.  (Yesterday, she called to ask if she and her friend could have some gummi bears.)  Also, maybe it's location specific?  Our house is on the top of the hill that no one, not even the delivery people, wants to come up. We're in a neighborhood that actually has less crime than our neighborhood in Austin, and no violent crime or kidnappings or anything at all.

I wonder if this is one of those things where our fears don't necessarily coincide with reality? As you know if you'd read this blog for any length of time, I try very hard not to be the over-protective mom.  It's my natural tendency-- I still don't let Ana go to the mall by herself or with her friends even though I'm pretty sure when I was almost 13, *I* was allowed to go -- and I've worked to make sure Jane has the skills to handle this new independence.  (Having said that, I would NEVER leave her if she was afraid or uncertain--she'd just come along. It's my experience that younger siblings grow up a little faster than the oldest and are ready for more independence sooner. ) (Although, I'm pretty sure I started leaving Ana alone for short periods at about the same age, so maybe not.)

(I'll just work all this out in parenthetical phrases for a while, shall I?) (Sheesh.)


I'd like to know where you, my readers, stand on this issue.  If you are parents, when did you start leaving your kids at home for short periods? What do you think the chief risks are? Do you think this is a regional thing or a situational thing or a thing that should be decided on a child-by-child basis?  Obviously, my biggest culpabilty of all was not letting the mom know my plans --I should have called her before I left the house.  For that I am really, horribly sorry and will never make that mistake again.  But I don't think I'm going to stop leaving Jane alone for short periods of time occasionally because she's shown she can handle it and it fosters a sense of independence/confidence in her.

I started Googling this issue and came up, as usual, with people who were very virulently on one side or the other about it.  Nothing in parenting is every without strong, strong opinions and usually some nasty slings and arrows for people who make different choices. So, I'm very interested in what YOU think --just, you know, be nice about it.

Comments

Anonymous said…
It matters a lot what your kid is like, but it also matters a lot how you were raised and how much fear you have as a parent. I have a friend who left her 9 year old to babysit their 1-year old every day after school for 2 hours a day, for a year. And then there's a guy who writes (wrote) for the Washington Post who was horrified that a 17 year old was allowed to sit in a car "alone" at a Safeway lot! I'm definitely in between.

What I ended up doing was leaving my kids alone whenever I felt they could handle it (both re the good judgment criterion and the they-won't-feel-abandoned criterion), but always tell parents of visiting kids when I won't be there...even up to age 18.

Sarah S
tanita davis said…
Howzabout a thought from the West? I was born in S.F. - and lived in the surrounding suburbs, and when I was five, my Mom left me home alone for twenty minutes to pick up my sisters... I was the youngest at the time and had been watching TV... my Dad was around somewhere, outside, doing something...

And in that twenty minutes, I opened the door for some salesman, who took one look at me, took five steps back and said, "Close the door, honey, we'll just wait for your Mama to come home."

I knew I'd blown it, and was already in a corner in a chair by the time she came home.

I never heard the end of it, of course. The next time she left me alone in the house, I was nine, almost ten.

HOWEVER. I was left alone with two older sibs countless times. Being left alone at seven with a nine year old and an eleven year old with me was normal - we knew what was expected, and did it.

I have zero kids, so I am not the voice of sanity or reason, but in my experience, with the nephews, nieces and younger sibs that I now have, it would really depend on the child. I'm sorry your daughter's playmate's mother is unhappy, though. That's not a good feeling, I'm sure.
Susan said…
I think it depends on the kid, but i don't think leaving a visiting child would pass my muster.
Problem is, problems come up, sometimes mom does not get home when expected for whatever reason and then kid is left alone longer than intended.
Our first babysitter was eleven, our daughter was a toddler................
Kris said…
I grew up in a very rural area of MI and remember being home alone with my younger sister (she was 4 and I was 8). No big deal.

I'm currently living in the south suburbs of Chicago and times have changed, but I don't see anything wrong with what you did. If it was me, I wouldn't have called the parent either.

My son was 5 when I left him home alone for a quick trip to grab milk. Now with there being 9 years difference between him and his sister, I really don't have any issues with leaving the two of them alone.
Ei said…
But, but...but...the original free range mom is a New Yorker, right?

I'm pretty conservatively free range. Conservative enough to not tell what we do in our home on the internet though.

I think you are right to apologize for not letting her know they'd be home alone for a bit...I don't think there's a thing wrong with your parenting approach though.
Laura said…
I truly believe there is no hard and fast rule for this. It depends on the kid and the situation.

My sis-in-law who lives in Littleton, Colorado allows her 8 year-old daughter to ride her bike to and from school alone everyday. I live a block from our school and wouldn't let my kids ride their bikes past our dead-end until 5th grade (11) let alone to school.

I grew up here on Long Island and I used to walk a 20 minute walk to my friend's house by myself every day when I was 8. I babysat infants until 2am when I was 11. When I was 13 I walked 20 minutes to the nearest bus stop, took a bus into Huntington Village, and transferred buses to catch the one to the mall all by myself every weekend.

My daughter started babysitting at age 12. I left her home alone for the first time when she was 10 - although she wanted to be home alone since she was 6. These days most parents are comfortable with their kids going to the mall or movies or a restaurant with friends in 7th/8th grade - though I know many who still do not allow it until HS.

Last night my 13yo wanted to sleep in my bed because two of her classmates have had mid-day burglaries at their homes in the last week.

I love Lenore Skenazy and her stories of over protective parents. She's woman who famously left her 9 yo son in Bloomies in NYC and let him find his own way home on the subway -- something he had been begging her to do for a long time.

As someone who works with kids, I truly believe we have created a generation of over-protected, over-supervised kids who are far from where they should be when it comes to self-sufficiency (my own kids included).

I say Bravo for raising two such independent, self-sufficient, self-confident and mature girls. It is a testament to you as a parent.

PS -
I pulled this from the NYS Child Protective Service site about leaving a child alone:
Consider the child: How mature is the child? How comfortable is the child with the circumstances? What has the child done in the past to show you he/she is able to take on this kind of responsibility?
Consider the child’s knowledge and ability: Does the child know how and when to contact emergency help? Is the child able to prepare food for him/herself? Are there hazards to the child in the environment such as accessible knives, power tools, a stove or oven?
Consider the circumstances: Where will the child be when left alone? How long is the child to be alone?
Laura said…
I truly believe there is no hard and fast rule for this. It depends on the kid and the situation.

My sis-in-law who lives in Littleton, Colorado allows her 8 year-old daughter to ride her bike to and from school alone everyday. I live a block from our school and wouldn't let my kids ride their bikes past our dead-end until 5th grade (11) let alone to school.

I grew up here on Long Island and I used to walk a 20 minute walk to my friend's house by myself every day when I was 8. I babysat infants until 2am when I was 11. When I was 13 I walked 20 minutes to the nearest bus stop, took a bus into Huntington Village, and transferred buses to catch the one to the mall all by myself every weekend.

My daughter started babysitting at age 12. I left her home alone for the first time when she was 10 - although she wanted to be home alone since she was 6. These days most parents are comfortable with their kids going to the mall or movies or a restaurant with friends in 7th/8th grade - though I know many who still do not allow it until HS.

Last night my 13yo wanted to sleep in my bed because two of her classmates have had mid-day burglaries at their homes in the last week.

I love Lenore Skenazy and her stories of over protective parents. She's woman who famously left her 9 yo son in Bloomies in NYC and let him find his own way home on the subway -- something he had been begging her to do for a long time.

As someone who works with kids, I truly believe we have created a generation of over-protected, over-supervised kids who are far from where they should be when it comes to self-sufficiency (my own kids included).

I say Bravo for raising two such independent, self-sufficient, self-confident and mature girls. It is a testament to you as a parent.
Laura said…
PS -
I pulled this from the NYS Child Protective Service site about leaving a child alone:
Consider the child: How mature is the child? How comfortable is the child with the circumstances? What has the child done in the past to show you he/she is able to take on this kind of responsibility?
Consider the child’s knowledge and ability: Does the child know how and when to contact emergency help? Is the child able to prepare food for him/herself? Are there hazards to the child in the environment such as accessible knives, power tools, a stove or oven?
Consider the circumstances: Where will the child be when left alone? How long is the child to be alone?
Michelle P. said…
For me, it is all about the kids. I just recently started letting Zach watch Hannah for a little while at a time (and I still worry the whole time!) but he is doing a great job. I do let Alexis stay home for short periods of time by herself (much for the same reasons as you, to go pick up her brother mostly - and no, she doesn't get to watch her sister yet).

Zach has probably started staying home by himself for short periods a couple of years ago, but I have a friend whose 11 year old will not stay by himself yet.

So in essence, I think I am right there with you - and I would have felt terrible about not telling the other mother as well - but this is a life lesson to learn and move on - not beat yourself up over!
momwhoknits said…
Well, here is a Canadian view point for what it is worth. If your child is mature enough to handle it and wants to be left alone, then go for it. There is that awkward age between 10 and 12 where they resent a sitter, but do not always want to come with you and it is the perfect opportunity for them to start the trip along the road to maturity.

As I write, my 11 year old is home alone (parent-teacher interview day) and in 40 minutes will walk to catch a bus - on his own - to come meet me at work to do lunch. He is the third child, so I echo the comment that younger children grow up quicker than the first child. That being said, all three of our children took the bus home (including a transfer) when they were 12, 9 and 6) and now use the bus with a huge degree of confidence - which is great, because they won't be getting their own car unless they buy it themselves!!

Our local library ran a "Home Alone" course which gave all three of my kids the skills and confidence to stay home when they did not feel like coming with me.

The risks are minimal, in my estimation, as long as the child is comfortable staying alone and you are comfortable letting them stay alone. I think that finding ways for kids to develop their independence at an early age is critical to them developing into mature, self-sufficient adults and isn't that what we all (mostly) want our children to become?

I echo the sentiment that we do too much for our children and are creating a generation of kids who may have challenges surviving on their own. Our oldest has just left for university - on the east coast. (We live in Calgary, Alberta). She is one of three - and the only girl - in her grad class of 15 (a small sample, but I have seen it in larger graduating classes as well) to leave the city for university away and we have been surprised at people's reactions. ("How can you let her go that far away" is the most typical and the one I have the hardest time answering - it's not about "let" as much as it is about her need to discover who she is and what she is capable of without her parents hovering over her shoulder, telling her what to do - but I digress.)

Kids need to grow and learn coping skills - it builds their confidence and self-assurance and isn't that part of my job as a parent? The mantra that I play in my head is "Roots and wings, baby - my job is to give you roots and wings!"
Blogless A.R. said…
The number one risk to children is, and has been for awhile, motor vehicle accidents. While we parents tend to be more fearful of the big-publicity events like school shootings or kidnappings, they are a MUCH, MUCH more rare occurrence and risk than the daily, mundane risks we face voluntarily.

Kudos to you for thoughtfully assessing what YOUR kids are capable of and ready for, and also kudos for your (belated) realization that other parents make different parenting decisions worth honoring. I don't think you're crazy, in any case, and this is certainly an issue worth thinking long and hard about.
Tenna Draper said…
okay, Barb-I figure it's okay that the other mom got upset that you left them alone--mom's differ one to the other, and she knows her daughter better than you do--you realize your mistake and that's that.

Your kid is your kid, but 9 is still pretty young. And it's not the DON'T OPEN THE DOOR TO *ANYBODY* rule that gets them--it's the "fall down the stairs" or the "cut myself with a knife" or "dad left out the circular saw--I'll just see about cutting my toys in half and cut off my arm" sort of stuff--that, again, fall under the Mommy knows daughter/son thing.

My son? He wasn't alone in the house until he was 12--not even for a moment. He had a 12 year old sitter when he was 9--who knew enough to call me if there was an accident (and there were a couple). But even at 12, he nearly burned the house down with a bottle of Windex and the natural gas stovetop, and I was only uptown for 5 minutes, and came home to my kitchen coated in black soot.
Anonymous said…
Actually I first left my daughter alone at 7ish while picking up her brother from school (8 minutes away). She was fine. Her same-age cousin? his dad said heck no. He turned his back on him, at about that age, and the kid was cutting off the legs of his little sister's tights with scissors. Who would have guessed? Kids' judgment varies.

-Sarah S again
Sandra said…
We had a neighbor who would hand her baby monitor to the next door neighbor and go to the store while her 1 year old was asleep. Worked great until the day she left for three hours (I'll be gone 20 minutes, I promise!), the baby woke up screaming and no one could get inside because all the doors were locked and mom wasn't answering her cell phone.

As for me, I got upset at my next door neighbor because both parents left while my 5 yo was there, leaving a proven irresponsible 14 year old in charge and didn't tell me.

There are some friends homes I wouldn't mind, but this one I did. I just went and told him to come home and we talked about how he can't play over there if no parents are home.

I've heard a lot worse stories from my own neighborhood then leaving two 9 yo alone for 20 minutes.

I hope this doesn't ruin Jane's friendship though. Parents are funny that way.
Hi Barb,

I'm an Irish mum of two girl's 8 and 11yrs (an a spanish girl 11yrs living with us for a year). I live in suburbia, near Dubin city.

When I was 9 my sister and I got the bus home alone from school everyday (30mins)and walked back from the bus stop (15mins)on our own.

Now, I'm like your friend, never leaving my 8yr old alone (at all, ever)and only this summer leaving my 11yr old alone while I go across the road to the neighbours house for a cuppa and a natter for 10-20mins.

I talked to an older lady, mum of 8 (yes 8*!) the other day and she told me (like it was a good thing) that none of her kids knew the meaning of the words rape or incest until they were in their 20's. Is it any wonder that so many of our generation were abused!

At the end of the day, is it any safer now than when we were kids? Maybe so maybe not.

Learning to manage the dangers of the big bad world is all about taking age apropriate steps. One of those steps is being home alone for short periods of time and whether the right time to start that is 8 or 9 or 10 is down to all sorts of variables and I think is generally best left to the mum.

These things can be emmotive issues. A bit like when should you stop breatsfeeding? (there's a wowzer) or how much junk food is ok? (yes you with the veggie garden) We mum's can give each other such a hard time. Let's give each other a bit of lee way and support. God knows it's a hard enough job to be a mum without laying out trip wires for each other.

Keep up the good work Barb!
Anonymous said…
I don't think it is necessarily a North/South thing. I am Long Island born and raised. When my sisters and I were 11, 14, and 16, my parents went to Italy for a week. During the day, we were on our own, responsible for feeding ourselves, getting ourselves to school (bus), etc. At night, a neighbor's college age daughter stayed overnight with us. We all still laugh at the stories about the panic we were in when our parents called to say they were coming home a day early and the house (mostly my room) was a complete disaster! I don't think I could do that, but I started leaving my kids home alone for an hour or so when they were in 5th grade. I would not leave the oldest one in charge of little ones at that age, but she could stay alone herself. The younger ones got to stay home alone for shorter stretches when they were younger, but around 5th grade, I felt comfortable leaving them for longer. With that said, when they had friends over, I always did check with the friend's parent if I had to leave the house for 15-20 minutes. If it was going to be longer, I usually took everyone with me.

Bethany
Anonymous said…
Oh, and I also would leave my youngest alone in the house for 10-15 minutes when he was four and five while I walked the other two to the end of the 800 foot driveway to get to the bus. He would just sit and watch TV. If he was the type of kid that I knew would get into mischief, then I would take him with me.

Bethany
Attie's Mom said…
Oh what a timely blog. My husband and I are in different corners about this subject just this week.
My 9yo son (10 in Nov.) wanted to go out the other day to collect caterpillars for science class. I let him ride his back to the dead-end portion of our street (there is a bend in the road and I can't see it from our house). From there he went into the woods for about 150 feet. He took my cell phone with him and was gone for about 5-10 minutes, then I gave him a call to let him know that I was walking down to meet him because we had to get ready to go to soccer practice.
I thought it was a good way to get a bit of independent exploration experience. However, it scared the **** out of my husband and he can't understand how I could put our son in danger.
I know times have changed (or have they really and things are the same and we just hear about it more???) but when I was young we were out on our bikes around the neighborhood, exploring the woods, etc. all of the time.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
A girlfriend recommended "free range kids" it is on my buy list for my husband.
Attie's Mom said…
Just to follow-up on your south vs north comment. We live in Massachusetts. My husband was raised in MA, however I was raised in suburban Michigan. (Maybe a bit of Midwest vs. Northeast too).
Plus husband is quite anxious and I'm quite laid-back. I think that has a lot to due with it too.
Anonymous said…
I don't think it is a north/south thing Barb. I am a southerner and think that your choice to leave your daughter home alone is completely your decision. Who knows her maturity level, common sense and street smarts better than you? I am totally uncomfortable with you leaving the other child there though. Few of us really knows what happens at other people's houses, with their families and not all kids have the "ego strength" to put limits on their peers, handle others behavior. I even take issue with calling the mom and asking if it is ok while the child is there; you'd be putting her on the spot, with no graceful way to say "no". The only way I would do that is if I had known the other child and her family exceptionally well, cleared it ahead of time and knew that both girls were of the same maturity level. I just couldn't take that kind of responsibility for a child who wasn't mine but more importantly, I wouldn't ask my daughter to either. Or even worse what if your daughter was hurt....are you sure this other kid is up to the challenge of doing what is necessary to get help?

Really wasn't trying to make you feel bad-had something similar happen with my daughter. My daughter appears to be pretty mature when you first meet her but she truly is pretty flighty when you get to know her. She simply isn't ready to be home alone but I had a parent who left her with her daughter and a 13 year old brother. Found out later that the brother and a friend were exploring the dad's Playboy collection. Nothing more happened but it could have, ya know?
Barb said…
Dear Anonymous,

You didn't make me feel bad by disagreeing with me. People make different choices. I was interested in my readers' feedback, that's why I put the question out there. As it turns out, I do know this little girl very well and she has spent a lot of time at my house. When I talked to the mom again, I apologized profusely for not having cleared my plans with her. It was really just like a mental blip on my part, in the past, I have always cleared any such absence with the parents or I've just taken the girls with me. (Last week was a really terrible week for me in many ways.) She was gracious and loving and our friendship is intact. The very next day, her daughter came home with me again and we had a do-over. All is good.

I wish you'd signed your name, though. I was kind of hoping that the kind of discourse we have here in the comments was safe for people to voice their opinions and not feel the need to be anonymous. It seems odd to say that my feeling aren't one bit hurt by you disagreeing with me, but I'm a little sad that you didn't feel like it was okay to speak your piece under your name. I do allow anonymous comments --some people can't post any other way. But they mostly sign their names OR if they're more comfortable in a less public forum, they send me e-mail.

Best to you,
Barb
Annabanana said…
Barb - this is so helpful to me to read, because I've been wondering about these limits for my almost 9 son. Since he's an only kid, we tend to be slow to stuff, but mostly it's from hitting our fist to head to remember how old he is, and how mature. I was trying to schedule a walk the other day and wondered if it was ok to leave him while I circled the 2.5mile neighborhood...still wondering. And we recently had story in the paper about a parent arrested when she left her 5 kids at home sleeping at night (oldest was 13-15) and a child woke and wandered off. Anyway, I don't really have an opinion or guideline for US, but appreciate reading all the input here, too. THANKS for being so timely and honest and real!
Kathy said…
Blogless A.R.! Thank you for bringing this up. I am much more resistant to letting my daughter (12) get into a car when someone besides me is driving. Even to the movies. I myself would rather walk than get in a cab (Barb knows this first hand). Given a choice, I would always prefer that my kid stayed home alone than got into a car with someone.
Ann Gaydos said…
I agree with those who think the maturity of the individual child is the most important criterion. Cell phones change the equation greatly. My children can always contact me at any time if I'm out and there's a problem. Two of my neighbors and I are "on duty" for one another. We have one another's home and cell numbers readily available, and we can all call on one another in a crisis. A neighbor called me recently to say her kids were alone at home, had called her on her cell to say their puppy had bitten her youngest, that she couldn't get home immediately, and could I go over and see everything was OK. With that safety net, I feel very comfortable about leaving my children home. I also drop them off at the pool on their own, even the youngest (aged 10.) They each have a cell phone, we know all the lifeguards (my kids swim there a lot!), and they swim like fish. I'm a lot less comfortable leaving other people's children alone. I usually run it by the child's parent(s) if I'm in that situation and ask how they feel, especially in the case of leaving them at the pool.

Ann
Jennie said…
How about a aussie point of view? This was such a timely post for me. I have been struggling for a little while now about whether my 11 year old (and only just 11) is old enough to be left home alone/allowed to go to the shops by himself. I do think it really makes a difference what the child is like and my 11 year old is very responsible. My 6 year old, on the other hand, may never be allowed to stay home by herself at the rate she is going. She gets up to far too much trouble when we ARE home:)

Anyway, I finally came to the conclusion that with just over 1 year left before he starts high school I need to allow him some freedoms or he will be thrown in the deepend when he gets to high school. I have been letting him stay home for an 1 hour or 2 at a time and he has started going to the local shop for me. It is a great way to show that we trust him. He really enjoys being given the responsibility and I think it gives him confidence. As a child who doesn't always have the most confidence this is a great thing.

Anyway, thank you very much for writing this blog. It has given me more confidence in my own choice!

Jennie
jennyp said…
I agree it depends on the child. My oldest, now 14, was in 5th grade before I let him stay home, though, and then it was short stays that we let gradually get longer. He was 7th before I'd let him watch his brother alone. Even now he doesn't like being home alone if it's dark, so we try not to do that. But he does babysit - is out now - so is trustworthy. (This is the same kid who ended up with 7 stitches in his arm the Saturday before school started because he threw the garbage over his shoulder like Santa (who does that) and was cut by a broken bottle. So you never know when something will happen.)

However, I would never leave mine alone with the friend. Just wouldn't do it. I'm not sure I'd leave teens alone, either. You really don't know when something will happen. I wouldn't hover over them, I just think it's good to have an adult presence around. Of course, mine could be a boy/girl thing, too. I have two boys. When exactly, do their brains mature (see earlier Santa/garbage incident)?
Bullwinkle said…
I know I'm late - but I'll add my thoughts anyway. I did not read all the comments - so I'll just apologize upfront if this is redundant.

As a child, I was never left alone. (I had a younger sib with developmental issues and an uncooperative father so it was almost logistically impossible for Mom to leave us alone.)

I was actually babysitting before being in the family home alone.

My nephews grew up in a rural area and had great independence from an early early age. One could handle it at age 5 (the older) and the other could not until his teens. (But he had an older brother - so it was not an issue for the parents.)

My current urban environment regulates that you can't leave a child under the age of 10 home alone. Some children/parents balk at this.

We do phone calls when kids are moving from one place to the next. (Yup, urban. Gotta make sure they get where they are going.) (My neighbor's elemetary school kids call sometimes when they get home from school - or knock and wave - just so there's awareness.)

My thought - it depends on the child and the environment and good judgment.