What age can kids use keys/garage codes to let themselves in?

I am wondering at what age do you let your child take a key to school and use it get in by themselves? Corollary question: Are you better installing a garage key code or trusting them to carry your house key?

Walsh has a weekly meeting where I need to leave 10 minutes before Rose gets off the bus. So the question is do I let my 11-year-old take a key to school and let herself in? Or use a garage key code to let herself in?

I will be gone about an hour, and she can work on homework.

I had an older brother so he used to let us in even when I was pretty darn young – maybe even elementary school. He wore the key around his neck on a long chain. My mom was usually home within the hour but she couldn’t’ leave work quite early enough to beat us home.

My girlfriend used to let herself in with the garage key code in high school, which I thought was so neat. I know a lot of other parents do it that way too. I actually bought one but I am having trouble making it work with my side of the garage. Michael has a separate opener that I am going to try next. (Does the code box increase your chances of break-ins? Is there anything unsafe about it?)

Arizona law doesn’t define an appropriate age to leave your child home. They leave it to the judgment of the parents. I definitely would NOT leave the 11-year-old in charge of any other kids. But I think she could be home alone for a short time.

She was quite proud and excited by the idea.

What age is OK for kids to let themselves into the house? Do you prefer the key or the garage code method for entry? Which are they more likely to screw up: losing the key or forgetting the code?

38 comments Add your comment

bid4dream

August 16th, 2012
2:06 am

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malleesmom

August 16th, 2012
7:27 am

My younger child (now age 10) is better at remembering the code than the older sister (almost 14). As long as Rose is comfortable and has a good understanding of how to handle simple emergencies, you should be fine. We went through 911 info, don’t open the door, not answering the phone (has a back up cell phone that only parents call), stuff like that. I suggest the first thing she does is call you when she arrives home and then starts on homework/snack. It’s so much easier now with cell phones. Can’t begin to tel you the gymnastics required to reach either of my parents when they weren’t home.

Voice of Reason

August 16th, 2012
7:44 am

Do you trust your neighbors? Could you give a trusted neighbor, who will be home, a key and instruct your daughter go to them and get it?

catlady

August 16th, 2012
7:53 am

I think Rose would be fine.

Theresa, what do you think of the goings-on at the Red and Black??!!

motherjanegoose

August 16th, 2012
8:13 am

Haha! RE: garage codes… About a dozen years ago, our neighbor had just installed a keypad. Their youngest son was our daughter’s age ( both at are UGA now). The kids were coming down the block and Mom was telling us how it would help if they got home before she did and they could let themselves in. We were impressed. “Were you able to pick a code that everyone would remember?” The brother walked up the driveway…”Oh yes…’it’s Katie’s birthday!” We all laughed and the Mom was not happy as the code then had to be changed IMMEDIATELY. So…be sure to let your kids know NOT to share the code.

I do think they are handy but ours is all messed up since we had too many garage openers. We gave one to our neighbors ( if we are gone and something happens) and my sister has one and apparently it did something to the key pad. My husbands says there is a limit to how many openers are on it? We have six. Does anyone know?

@catlady…what is going on at the Red and Black?

Augusta

August 16th, 2012
8:17 am

I think 11 is the perfect age to start this. Get several keys made, and give ONE to her. you can buy a lanyard and she can put it around her neck, or put it on a key ring and attach it to her bookbag…..Give ONE to a neighbor, because kids will lose those keys….my oldest has lost her house key I don’t know HOW many times…..I usually have about 5 back up keys, and two of our neighbors have keys to our house.

This is a great way of teaching independance. Then you can start leaving her at home, if you need to run to the store or some quick errand, such as Walsh’s meeting…..

Roni

August 16th, 2012
8:29 am

There’s no magic age. I was staying home alone at 8 but I had a cousin who couldn’t be trusted until he graduated high school because he just always got into something. If your child seems independent and responsible enough, I would suggest doing a trial run first on a day/time you can be easily reached and home within a few minutes. If that goes well I’d allow it with minimal worry. I agree about multiple keys….give one to your daughter, one to a neighbor and hide one somewhere outside the house….though I probably wouldn’t tell her where until she called in a panic, to keep her from accidentally telling the secret hiding place. As for garage codes, even I don’t leave my house without a key and I haven’t had an issue with ours yet. What if there’s a random power outage the afternoon your daughter is coming home alone? Or what if that’s just the day the motor decides to quit. She should always have a key just in case.

Jess

August 16th, 2012
8:32 am

My son is 7 and not old enough to stay at home alone, but we have taught him the garage code and we let HIM key-open the garage door and unlock the door when we come home. It will be second nature to him when he is doing it on his own. Start teaching them how to do it when you are present now before they are alone and trying to figure it out.

"Red & Black" controversy...at UGA

August 16th, 2012
8:34 am

The editor in chief of the student newspaper covering the University of Georgia resigned Wednesday during a walkout involving several staff members.
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“The Red & Black’s top editors, design staff, photo staff and reporters walked out of the newspaper building this afternoon,” Polina Marinova, former editor, wrote in an online letter.

Marinova’s letter was posted on Facebook and Twitter, where a new group calling itself “Red and Dead” continued to pick up followers through Wednesday evening. Marinova did not respond late Wednesday to messages from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The student newspaper has been independent from the Athens university since 1980 and is self-funded. Many of the university’s journalism students work at the paper for real-world experience coinciding with classwork.

But an editorial board that oversees the newspaper is at the center of the conflict, Marinova wrote in her resignation letter.

“For years, students have had final approval of the paper followed by a critique by the adviser only after articles were published,” Marinova wrote. “However, from now on, that will not be the case. Recently, editors have felt pressure to assign stories they didn’t agree with, take ‘grip and grin’ photos and compromise the design of the paper.”

“In less than a month, The Red & Black has hired more than 10 permanent staff with veto power over students’ decisions,” she wrote.

Kent Middleton, head of the journalism department at UGA’s Grady College, serves on The Red and Black board. He told the AJC late Wednesday he was still learning the facts about the walkout, but hoped the student journalists would be able to resolve the conflicts.

“I hope the students go back and assert their right to practice good journalism,” Middleton said in a phone interview. “We want a strong and thriving Red and Black and I hope the students will go in and make it that way. … They can’t be as effective journalists outside The Red and Black.”

Ed Morales, editorial adviser to The Red and Black, did not respond to an email message late Wednesday. No one answered the phone at the newspaper office.

Although previously published five days a week, the award-winning newspaper switched to one printed publication a week in August 2011 and announced it would be ramping up its online news.

“Forget everything you’ve ever thought about newspapers, because we’re redefining how it works,” the paper stated on its front page. “Think a breaking news operation, run by the generation which grew up with computers, cell phones and iPods.”

Students involved in the walkout did not respond to messages sent via Twitter and Facebook requesting comment.

FCM

August 16th, 2012
8:36 am

Rose should be fine.

Unless you get calls at work like i just did….Mom, I cannot find the key!

FCM

August 16th, 2012
8:39 am

The also make keyless entry for the front door….

“I will be gone about an hour, and she can work on homework.” More likely she will enjoy her freedom, have a snack and watch tv or listen to music. Mom, it’s ok to let her make some choices like that and suffer the consequences….Mine loses time at night do the fun stuff with me or her sister…but it is her choice. (And I see her changing it).

motherjanegoose

August 16th, 2012
8:50 am

@FCM…my daughter called yesterday and said, “Mom, I went to bed at 9:00 last night…what do you think?”

“Um…you were tired and you are finally realizing how this works?’

She has a busy semester, early classes and her job. Over the summer, she had late classes and worked late so she was up until 2:00 a.m. and sleeping until almost noon.

My husband worked midnights for years, so I do understand how this works but it made me laugh.

@Voice…just skip my posts…they are often random…haha!

FCM

August 16th, 2012
9:16 am

@ MJG I love it!!!!

Fred ™

August 16th, 2012
9:19 am

When DO you cut the umbilical cord? Mine is 10 and we are taking baby steps as far as leaving her alone. I think I’m worse about it than her mom. But then daddy’s worry about their little girls more than mom’s do, (yes that’s a “sexist” remark but true nonetheless).

We’ve left her alone but never had her come home to an empty house. I would be uncomfortable with that. What if there is a prowler in the house when she comes in? A boogeyman or monster under the bed? I could think of a million things to worry about.

But IF I did let her come home, I would give her a key although she already knows the garage door code. What if it’s raining and the power is out? A garage code isn’t going to do her much good. All she can do is stand out in the rain. I know Phoenix doesn’t rain much. But when it does all hell breaks loose……..

DO both the key AND the code.

motherjanegoose

August 16th, 2012
9:25 am

TWG…you have a dog right? I think that might help with kids coming home to an empty house. In almost 30 years of marriage, we have always had a dog..except the first year and then also when when one of our dogs died. It even feels weird to me, to come home without our dog….such as when she is at the vet or groomer.

Kat

August 16th, 2012
9:42 am

If this is the same child who had trouble with her combination lock at school, then I say give her a key.

Kat

August 16th, 2012
9:45 am

@Fred: Don’t worry about being sexist – this blog is entitled “A blog for busy moms.” Since you post, but aren’t a mom, you are being discriminated against every time you visit, so it works out. No apology needed. And I agree with your point too.

SayWhat

August 16th, 2012
9:49 am

It all depends on the child. Mine was 12 when I let him start using a key and staying by himself until we got home from work. On the other hand, I’ve seen 20 year olds that I wouldn’t trust to do the same.

Chris

August 16th, 2012
9:54 am

I wonder how many people use birthdays for their garage door key code? Genius!

sp

August 16th, 2012
9:58 am

I agree with Fred – key and a code. Also, make sure she knows where the guns are – you know, for just in case…

motherjanegoose

August 16th, 2012
10:13 am

@SayWhat…yes we left our two home, to take a weekend trip, when they were 14 and 19. We told them that all the neighbors had our cell phone numbers and could reach us immediately. We never had any trouble with our kids, on this level. The troubles we have had are minor compared to the stories I have heard from others. Things have happened, in our neighborhood, that would make your hair fall out. Some of our friends told us of their neighbors who left their 20 ish son home and there was a blow up doll on the front porch…they thought it odd. The parents asked them to keep an eye on things. Apparently, it was to let everyone else know where the party was. The party WAS a doozey too.

Jacksmum

August 16th, 2012
10:19 am

We presented my 9 year old with a key for his birthday. I work from home, but it’s really helpful that he can let himself in and get a snack. It’s definitely made him more responsible. On the rare occasion he has been allowed to stay alone at the house, he has followed all of the rules and seems to take this new responsibility very seriously.

We also have a garage key pad…he was not so responsible with it, and we have had to change the code a few times.

Techmom

August 16th, 2012
10:35 am

We have a garage door code. I don’t even have a house key anymore… gave it to a neighbor when we went out of town for the weekend so they could get in to take care of the dogs and never got it back. We’ve never had any issues with it. As someone else stated, you could buy a new door lock that includes a key pad so you don’t need a key. Schlage makes a lockset that can communicate with your wireless network and can even send you a text message when someone enters.

http://www.lowes.com/ProductDisplay?partNumber=311027-352-FE599GR++CAM+716+ACC&langId=-1&storeId=10151&productId=3151965&catalogId=10051&cmRelshp=req&rel=nofollow&cId=PDIO1

Jennifer

August 16th, 2012
10:40 am

I did this in elementary school. An 11-year-old should be absolutely fine letting herself in the house with a key or a code, especially since it doesn’t sound like she’ll be alone for a long time.

Most kids would probably be better at memorizing a code than keeping up with a key. Make it something easy for Rose to remember.

Augusta

August 16th, 2012
11:06 am

My oldest lost her house key so many times, that we made her pay for new ones every time she lost it.

FCM

August 16th, 2012
11:06 am

We bought a dog specifically when I knew one of mine would need to be in the house without me. She LOATHED coming home to an empty house, and the dog means it is not empty and he is ALWAYS happy to see her. He moped when she went to sleep away camp (he’ll live).

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

August 16th, 2012
11:08 am

Catlady — i was the editor in chief at the Red and Black twice and was managing editor there once. I worked there all four years (only part of the freshman year) and had a scholarship from them that paid for part of my senior year. I am good friends with the publisher and some on the board. I am waiting to hear more from them. I am hoping that it is a misunderstanding. What I am hearing doesn’t make sense to the core values of The Red and Black or the publisher of it. We did make some mistakes as editors but they were our mistakes. The R&B is an invaluable learning experience for students and has a tremendous history. The R&B has been around longer than the state of Arizona!!! I hope everyone can cool down, sit down and work it out. I am anxiously following all the news via twitter, blogs, FB, emails and phone calls.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

August 16th, 2012
11:09 am

Our dog is tiny and wimpy but might alert her if someone was in the house.

oneofeach4me

August 16th, 2012
11:28 am

My daughter started doing this at age 10. She has a key and know the garage code, just in case there is a power outage or the batteries in the garage door key pad decide to die.

DB

August 16th, 2012
12:00 pm

In 5 years, she will have the car keys, so this is good practice for learning to be responsible. Yes, she will probably lose it a time or two — but can you honestly say you’ve never lost a key? This is how we learn. Have a spare key hidden on the property — most keys are kept within 10 feet of the front door, so be clever, like under the AC unit outside, behind a gutter downspout in the backyard, etc.

The garage code tends to become common knowledge after a few months — you give it to a neighbor, a friend watches and remembers it, etc., etc. Same with a key lock code on the front door. If you’re really worried, think about a biometric door lock, one that can be programmed to recognize the family’s fingerprints. :-) No key, no code — bingo.

catlady

August 16th, 2012
12:00 pm

Theresa, that’s why I called your attention to it. I know you have experience in this area and would be able to give some good perspective on this.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

August 16th, 2012
12:04 pm

one of each — good point on the power!! it’s 115 here. you don’t want to be stuck outside!!!

I have a second post for today popping up around noon –

FCM

August 16th, 2012
12:14 pm

A Augusta at 11:06….too funny I made my eldest pay for her key the other day, and the lanyard too. From her allowence.

jmb

August 16th, 2012
12:30 pm

Theresa, you can buy a code lock for your front door at Home Depot for $119 or so. We have one and it’s great. No fumbling for the key when you have your hands full.

RedandBlackPeachy

August 16th, 2012
12:31 pm

Old fashion key. If there is an issue with the power or the garage door opener (mine malfunctions every once or twice a year) she won’t be able to let herself in.

oneofeach4me

August 16th, 2012
1:45 pm

@TWG ~ I am the master of the backup plan! There is ALWAYS a plan B to something.

Fred ™

August 16th, 2012
2:36 pm

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

August 16th, 2012
12:04 pm

one of each — good point on the power!! it’s 115 here. you don’t want to be stuck outside!!!
+++++++++++++++

And THAT post makes it obvious you didn’t read mine. Sweet.

Jennifer

August 17th, 2012
11:56 am

I had a key in about 3rd grade, maybe sooner. My brother was five years ahead so he got home a half hour after me. I had a key on a chain I wore around my neck, under my shirt. I got of the bus, went in the house, turned on the tv and that was that. If I forgot my key and my neighbor wasn’t home, I just sat on the steps in the garage until someone got home. No cell phones back then!