Since “latchkey” children finish school before their parents finish work, the children arrive home before their working parents arrive home. If both parents are working outside of the home, the children are home alone until their parents return home from work.
During WWII , the fathers were overseas fighting, and the mothers often were working in the factories to support the war effort. The big difference between the dangers facing latchkey children during WWII and now is the internet.
Today, adult predators can impersonate children in internet chat rooms. While there, they can evaluate which children would be easiest for them to victimize. Once they decide which child to seduce, they are willing to spend much time and money gradually seducing the child with attention, kindness, and gifts. The end goal of the child molesters is a face-to-face meeting with the children.
The legal age at which children are allowed to be latchkey children is not set by law in many states. The states that do require latchkey children to be a certain age have age requirements as young as six years of age. Sometimes, even these stated ages are only guidelines.
This lack of state legal mandates probably just means that state laws have not yet adjusted to the dangers of the internet age. Parents must recognize these internet dangers and must teach their children about how to avoid the potential dangers of on-line meetings. Although there are many ways for parents to monitor the on-line habits of their children while they are at home, there are computers and internet connections outside of the home that a rebellious child could use, if he/she is not approached about this topic reasonably.
Latchkey children also should be taught to stay safe from more immediate dangers. For example, latchkey children should know:
- Who they should and should not open the door for.
- How to dial 911 and get to a safe place in house.
- Who is a trustworthy neighbor.
- Household items they should not use, such as the oven.
- The importance of calling the parents to tell them where they are going, with whom, and when they plan to be back home.
Another good practice is for parents to call home and check on their latchkey children. It also is a good practice to keep such calls positive and to end them by saying something such as, “I love you.”