Before I get to that question, I have to tell you that on Saturday we went to the shopping mall. It was unusually chaotic. As soon as we arrived we realised something wasn’t right, the multi-storey car park was pretty much gridlocked.
This was quite unusual, especially at 3 o’clock in the afternoon as the shops are always busier in the mornings. Then, when we eventually parked up and got into the shopping mall, we realised what all the fuss was about.
The western suburbs of Brisbane had got themselves a new store…
Yes, H&M had arrived. The police were there, not sure what for, crowd control I suppose. Maybe there could have been a riot as people fight over clothes? Or maybe they were just there to help direct people to the underwear section or perhaps the dresses.
Some time ago I had a little laugh at Adelaide’s expense when they went crazy over the opening of a Krispy Kreme in the city. Now the laugh is on me as the people of Brisbane go barmy over a clothes shop.
Let’s get back to that question.
How old is old enough for kids to go shopping on their own?
It’s a question that we as parents were faced with recently when Elizabeth had her 11th birthday. For her birthday party, she wanted a shopping trip with her pals followed by a sleepover. Note; not a shopping trip with her parents and her pals, but just with her pals.
So, five 11-year-old girls, are they old enough to walk around the mall on their own?
We spoke to the parents of the other girls, they didn’t have a problem and we all agreed this would be how it would work:
- Mrs Bob and I would drive them to the shopping mall
- We would arrive at 3 PM and the girls could go off shopping on their own
- We would meet them at 4 PM outside a designated shop so that we could have a quick chat and check everything was okay
- We would then meet again at 5 PM at the same pace to come home
- The girls were under strict instructions to stick together at all times
- Two of the girls had mobile phones so they could call us if they needed to, or we could call them
The shopping mall, incidentally, is on three levels and I reckon you could get from any shop to anywhere else in the mall in around five minutes or less.
It all worked out just great, the girls had a fantastic time. One of the first things they all bought were tops, matching tops, so the next time we saw them they were all dressed like this…
All had been good.
In fact in one shop all the girls had decided to buy frilly socks, but Elizabeth noticed hers were marked up at $6.00 whereas everybody else’s was marked up at $8.00. So Elizabeth asked the lady in the shop if they could all have them for six bucks.
Yes they could. Nice!
As parents, we are in no way ready to let our daughter get on a bus from home, with friends, and go to the shops. Under the above circumstances though, we were reasonably comfortable. There is no answer to the question, my suspicion is it largely depends on the area, the shopping mall, and the maturity of the children involved.
A few years ago, Sydney Police had a clampdown on children who were out on their own. In one incident they watched as a 10-year-old girl got on a bus on her own and they followed it until she got off. As she was greeted by her mother who was already waiting at that bus stop. Police intervened, telling her “If it was our daughter we wouldn’t want her doing something like that.”
No further action was taken.
A seven-year-old boy was intercepted walking 400 metres from his home to a shop on his own. He was put in the police car and taken back to his dad’s house and his dad given a lecture. The police apparently did write a report up on this one, but they did not notify the Department of Community Services.
It seems the grey area is around 11 to 14.
According to this article in theage.com.au though, in New South Wales they have given guidelines, not so much for shopping malls, but for leaving kids on their own:
- A child aged 10-12 years can be left for up to 12 hours but not between 10pm and 6am
- Children aged 8-9 can be left for up to two hours as long as they are in safe circumstances and are capable of remaining so.
- Children aged 5-7 can play within earshot of an adult for 15-60 minutes and a preschooler for 5-15 minutes
So far we have never left Elizabeth in the house on her own at all, let alone for 12 hours, and we are certainly nowhere near ready to even consider doing that. But we did feel very comfortable with our arrangements on Saturday.
Australia vs The UK
As Mrs Bob and I sipped coffee in the food court on Saturday afternoon at around 3:30 PM whilst the girls were having their shopping fun, she made the following statement.
“If we were still in England, I would not have felt this comfortable allowing Elizabeth and her friends to go to either Lakeside or Bluewater (two large shopping malls close to where we used to live), but here I feel okay about it.”
Of course, in these kinds of situations, there is no ‘measure’ of safety. There is no real way to compare our two countries. But for some reason, and not just in shopping malls for kids, Australia does feel safer than the UK.
If it didn’t, the girls would have had maybe a DVD to watch and then the sleepover, there would have been no girlie shopping.