PARENTING: When will my kid be old enough to do that?

15 August 2017
Reading time8 mins

Recent stories about parents receiving fines for leaving their kids home alone or letting them walk to school by themselves had many of us in the office asking, “When will my child be old enough to do that?”

When can your child walk to school by themselves? Is it okay to leave a young child alone at home while you pop out for five minutes? We’ve answered many of these burning questions.

What age can my child…

Walk to school on their own?

A parent was recently fined in Miles, Queensland, for allowing their child, who was under 12 years old, to walk to school on their own.

The Queensland Criminal Code, Section 364A, states:

“(1) A person who, having the lawful care or charge of a child under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time commits a misdemeanour.

Maximum penalty—3 years imprisonment.

(2) Whether the time is unreasonable depends on all the relevant circumstances.”

Technically, if you allow your child under 12 to walk or ride to school on their own, you are committing an offence, punishable by up to 3 years in prison.

Slater & Gordon Lawyers state on its website: “If you leave a child unattended, whether it be in a car or at home, and that child is left for an unreasonable time and no reasonable provision for the supervision and care of that child has taken place, then ultimately you have committed a misdemeanour.”

See for more information.

Be left at home alone?

Again, the above rules regarding leaving children under 12 alone for an unreasonable time apply here. However, the Department for Education and Training reminds parents that accidents can happen quickly, and leaving children alone should be the last choice, not the first, even when they have reached the right age and maturity. It states parents should:

  • Check the safety of their home before leaving their child alone.
  • Test their child on the ground rules and what to do in case of any trouble.
  • Phone regularly to check on their child.
  • If putting someone else in charge of their child, think carefully about who is responsible enough. Make sure the carer looking after their child can handle any emergency and knows where to get help.
  • Check their child feels safe.

(From Home Alone)

Travel in a car with no child seat?

In Queensland, all children up to 7 years of age must be restrained in a suitable child seat when travelling in a car.

Queensland’s Department of Transport gives these guidelines on its website:

Babies up to 6 months old
Babies up to 6 months of age must be in an approved rear-facing restraint that is properly fastened and adjusted. 

Babies and children – 6 months to 4 years
Babies and children from 6 months and up to 4 years must be in an approved child restraint that is properly adjusted and fastened. The child restraint may be rear-facing or forward-facing with a built-in harness. 

Children – 4 to 7 years
Children aged 4 years and up to 7 years may be in an approved child restraint that is forward-facing with a built-in harness that is properly adjusted and fastened. They may also be in an approved booster seat secured with an adult lap-sash seatbelt or a fastened and adjusted H-Harness. However, research has indicated that the booster seat with a H-Harness option provides a lower level of safety in some types of crashes.

Children 7 years and over
Children who are 7 years and over may sit in a standard seat with an adult seatbelt, or an approved booster seat/cushion secured with an adult lap-sash seatbelt or an H-Harness. Or, they may be in an approved child restraint that is forward-facing with a built-in harness that is properly adjusted and fastened.

Read more here.

Watch that movie/play that computer game?

Ever wondered what movie classifications really mean? According to the Department of Communications and the Arts, G, PG and M are advisory classifications. This means there are no legal restrictions on the age of potential viewers/players and parents and guardians are best suited to make a decision about whether their children should view the film or play that video game.

G – General. The content is very mild in impact

PG – Parental Guidance. The content is mild in impact

M – Mature. The content is moderate in impact

However, for MA 15+ and R 18+ rated films and video games, legal restrictions do apply.

MA 15+ – Mature Accompanied. The content is strong in impact. Children under the age of 15 may not legally watch, buy or hire MA 15+ classified material unless they are in the company of a parent or adult guardian. Children under 15 who go to the cinema to see an MA 15+ film must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian for the duration of the film. 

R 18+ – Restricted. The content is high in impact. Restricted to adults only.

Read more here.

Have their own social media account? 

The world of social media is a labyrinth and once your child has their own account, a whole new world opens up that connects them to not only their friends but the world at large. Each social media platform have their own age limits but you may start getting confused when your child comes home telling you their friends are already on the platform and begging for you to let them on there too! Most of the popular social media platforms require children to be at least 13 before they can make their own account. But it's also worth becoming familiar with the platform yourself so that you can ensure security settings are activated and that your child is mature enough for the content on the platform. Here is a good guide to ages across social media platforms. 

Go to the doctor alone?

When children reach a certain age, they might not want to have a parent present when they are discussing their health with a doctor or nurse. But at what age can young people give consent to medical treatment or procedures?

LAWSTUFF, a website that provides legal information to young people, states:

“There is no law that says how old you must be before you can go to the doctor alone. But if you do go alone, your doctor will only give you treatment if they are sure that you are able to understand any medical advice and information they give you during the appointment…

“There is no fixed age at which you can consent to medical treatment on your own without your parents’ permission. If you are 16 or older, the doctor may accept your consent for most regular kinds of medical treatment. It always depends on what kind of medical treatment you need, and whether your doctor thinks you fully understand what is involved…

“If you are able to give consent to treatment, your doctor is usually not allowed to tell your parents that you visited the doctors or anything that was talked about during your visit. This is called confidentiality.”

Visit the LAWSTUFF website for more information.


To vote in a federal, state or local government election in Queensland, you must be 18 years or over. You can enrol to vote when you are 16, but you can’t actually vote until you turn 18. You must also be an Australian citizen.

Read more here.

Learn to drive?

In Queensland, you can apply for a learner licence when you turn 16. However, you must pass a written road rules test before you get your learner licence. When you get your licence, you will also receive a Learner Logbook, so you can record the number of hours you are driving. You can also log them using the Queensland Learner Logbook app.

If you are under 25, you will need to record at least 100 hours of supervised driving before you can apply for your P1 licence. You must also be 17 or older and have had your learner licence for at least a year. When you have submitted your 100 hours of supervised driving through your Learner Logbook, and it has passed, you can book a practical driving test. Pass this, and you will get your P1 licence. This licence has certain restrictions regarding passenger numbers, etc.

When you get your P1 licence, you can drive unsupervised. When you have had this licence for a year, you can apply for a hazard perception test. Pass this and you will receive your P2 licence, which has fewer restrictions on passenger numbers, etc.

To learn more about applying for a driving licence, visit the Queensland Government licensing website.

Drink alcohol?

Queensland Police states:

“Generally, if you are under 18 years of age, you are breaking the law if you:

  • Are found on licensed premises.
  • Are found drinking or in possession of alcohol on licensed premises or in a public place. It is even an offence to hold a drink for a parent or friend or help someone carry their alcohol down the road.
  • Supply or give alcohol to another minor.
  • Use someone else’s ID to try to purchase alcohol or gain entry to licensed premises.
  • Alter an ID (including changing the date of birth) or make a false ID.
  • Fail to provide your name, address or age on request of an officer, or providing a false name, address or age.”

However, you can “supply alcohol to a person under 18 if you are a ‘responsible adult’ for that person, are supervising them responsibly, and are in a private place”. So, giving your 17-year-old a glass of wine with dinner at home would generally be considered okay. See the Queensland Government drug and alcohol page for more information.

Have sex?

In Queensland, the age of consent for anal sex is 18, however, for all other sexual acts, the age of consent is 16.

See the Australian Institute of Family Studies website for more information.

Want to build a trusting relationship with you child? Check out the article 4 simple ways to a trustworthy teen.

If you have concerns about teens online, try Help! My teen has discovered porn.

Written by

Kerry White

Kerry is the Senior Writer for Kids on the Coast and Kids in the City. Kerry moved to Australia from England in 2013 with her husband and two daughters. She worked as a sub-editor in London for seven years before she had her girls. She now calls the Sunshine Coast her home and is making the most of its glorious weather and beaches. She enjoys baking, especially when she has a glass of wine in hand, and is a part-time Psychology, Criminology and Justice student. She also shares her home with two cats and her daughters' imaginary dogs.

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