At What Age Is It Safe for Kids to Go to the Shopping Mall on Their Own?

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…

h&mYes, 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…

girlie shoppingWhen it was all over, I asked Elizabeth if she or any of her friends had been treated poorly by any of the staff in any the shops? Or if anything bad or unpleasant has happened at all at any point?

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 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.

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Lea April 14, 2016, 7:02 pm |

    Hi Bobinoz,

    Your articles is cute as it talks about what age is it safe for the kids to go shopping alone. For me, maybe it would be better if the kids will ask permission first to there parents and the right age would be 16.

    • BobinOz April 15, 2016, 12:14 am |

      Good Lord, I was never suggesting at all that the kids decide for themselves when they are old enough, of course it’s the parents who make that decision. I’ve got to say though, 16 is way too old, you can’t wrap kids up in cotton wool for that long.

      I’d actually left home when I was 16 and went into lodgings, purely for geographical and logistical reasons. Imagine having to phone my mum and dad up to ask permission to go to the shops every time I needed to buy food?

      I think we have to give our kids a bit of freedom, but it does depend on the individual child. If they are sensible, responsible, have a mobile phone (most do) and promise to stick with the group of friends they are with and most of all, you trust them, then any time from about age 12 to 14 would seem reasonable to let them go to the shopping mall on their own I reckon.

  • SortingHat August 17, 2015, 2:37 am |

    That’s called a police state. Guess people will accept anything being done to them as long as it makes them *feel good* about it.

  • Claire Peppr-Rogers March 10, 2015, 9:36 pm |

    I think the most important thing that everyone needs to focus on here is that Brisbane now has an H&M! 🙂

    • BobinOz March 11, 2015, 8:14 pm |

      Ha ha ha, yes of course, that’s the biggie, we’ve got us an H&M, yay! Come on people, focus 🙂

  • SSSKale March 10, 2015, 3:28 am |

    Hi Bob!

    Just wondering, but what is your usual daily routine in Australia?

    And on what day was Elizabeth’s birthday on?

    Keep up the good work!

    Thanks, Bob

    • BobinOz March 10, 2015, 7:40 pm |

      Well, it’s too late to buy her a birthday present now 🙂

      Daily routine? That’s a bit personal, but pretty standard; brush teeth, occasional shower, work, eat, go to bed. That sort of thing.

      • djmcbell March 11, 2015, 2:03 am |

        Also, if you could provide your bank account number and passwords that’d be great.

        Do you mind if I go through your bins?

      • SSSKale March 11, 2015, 3:16 am |

        😀 but seriously.

        I’m just wondering how much your day differs to an average British one. And since it was my birthday recently, I was just curious as to whether or not we share one. I was born on the 7th!

        • BobinOz March 11, 2015, 9:17 pm |

          Nice one djmcbell 🙂

          SSSKale – even if I were to appease you and fully and describe my day, it wouldn’t help. I work for myself, from home, running two businesses. One a half really, because one of the businesses is shared with my wife. So I don’t battle with commuter traffic, but I can assure you that most Australians do.

          It’s not a paradise here, people still have to go to work, some get stressed, some hate their work, some loathe their long commutes to and from work, so it’s not that much different.

          On the other hand, we have more space around us, there are fewer people in this particular rat race, wages are generally higher, people are more laid-back, the weather is much much better, the beaches are great, and for those reasons, by comparison it IS a paradise.

          And no, you don’t share a birthday with my daughter 🙂

      • Hah May 11, 2015, 9:39 pm |

        Occasional shower? Not everyday shower? 😛

        • BobinOz May 12, 2015, 12:10 am |

          Glad you spotted that one Hah and that you commented on it. You’ve reminded me, I must try to remember to have another shower sometime this week 🙂

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