Like many millennial children, I was an avid reader of Ann M. Martin's Babysitter's Club book series. The series centered on a group consisting of six 13-year-old eighth graders and two 11-year-old sixth graders who joined together to make hiring a babysitter easy for their neighbors. Now, if a new law is passed in Rhode Island, the two youngest group members would have been committing a crime by being home alone for longer than a "brief period"--even if they were with their own siblings.
The bill reads:
1 SECTION 1. Chapter 14-1 of the General Laws entitled “Proceedings in Family Court” is hereby amended by adding thereto the following section:
Age restrictions for children. – Children under ten (10) years of age shall not be left home alone.
Children at least ten (10) years of age and not more than twelve (12) years of age shall be allowed to stay home alone for brief periods of time, but not after 9:00 pm.
Children over twelve (12) years of age may be left home alone, but not overnight.
Parents and legal guardians should use their judgment to access the maturity and responsibility of their children and to discuss safety procedures and precautions before deciding whether to leave their child(ren) home alone.
This is the definition of a nanny state. It's not the government's job to dictate when a parent should be allowed to leave their child home alone--that's the parent's job to judge the maturity of their own child and to use their best judgement. While I wouldn't personally leave a young child home alone, I don't think it should be criminal to leave a mature eight-year-old home alone to run a quick errand. Further, if this law is interpreted to the extreme, an 11-year-old (the youngest a person can be for a Red Cross babysitting course) would be unable to legally babysit for his or her neighbors or siblings. That's ridiculous.
Previously, Rhode Island attempted to make it illegal for a person under the age of 12 to walk home alone off the bus, and threatened to fine and suspend the licenses of parents who left their seven-year-old children alone in cars. Both of these bills were scrapped, thankfully.
Despite all of the legal hysteria, Rhode Island remains one of the safest states to live.
It's not the government's job to parent. Rhode Island needs to learn this.