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Tennessee Laws for Leaving Teens Alone at Home Overnight

author image Sharon Perkins
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.
Tennessee Laws for Leaving Teens Alone at Home Overnight
Mother checks in on child's bedroom after being out all night. Photo Credit Siri Stafford/DigitalVision/Getty Images

It's a huge step to leave your teen home alone overnight. Despite his earnest promises, you might not be able to keep visions of police visits and property damage from dancing in your head. States have different regulations about when it's OK to leave teens alone overnight, which may change from time to time. Tennessee, like many states, doesn't offer specific ages for leaving a teen home alone.

Tennessee Regulations

The state of Tennessee regulations, listed on the Tennessee State courts website, leave the decision on when children can be left at home without supervision in the hands of parents. The regulations do state that children under the age of 10 should not be left home alone at any time without supervision, but that older teenage children can, in most cases, be left home alone for short periods of time.

Using Your Judgment

Since the state leaves the decision of overnight stays alone up to you, you need to evaluate your child's abilities before making a decision. If you have more than one child, you know that what works for one child might not work for another at the same age. Your teen should be capable of calling for help in an emergency, be comfortable staying alone overnight and have someone nearby to turn to for back-up help if something goes wrong. He also needs to know how to reach you quickly. You must be able to trust him when he says he won't invite a few friends over to keep him company. "A few friends" can quickly get out of hand when parents are out of town.

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Watching Other Children

There's a big difference between trusting a teen to watch herself overnight and trusting her to watch other children and take responsibility for their safety. Teens who are capable of staying alone themselves might not be mature enough to watch other children overnight, the East Tennessee Children's Hospital website cautions. Tennessee law doesn't address how old a child must be to babysit other children during the day or overnight, so again, the burden of determining your teen's responsibility level will fall to you.

General Guidelines

Because your child is one of a kind, guidelines are nothing more than that -- a general idea on when it's reasonable to allow a teen to stay alone overnight. Teens of 16 to 17, if they're mature enough, can generally stay by themselves for a night or two without supervision, according to the legal website FindLaw. Teens between the ages of 13 and 15 can stay by themselves during the day, the guidelines suggest, but shouldn't be left alone overnight.

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