What You Need to Know

When home alone, the 10 to 14 year old may be faced with the need to make decisions about many questions.

For example:

  • What should I do if I am at school later than expected?
  • What should I consider when choosing a route between home and school?
  • What should I do when crossing the road? What should I not do?
  • What should I do when I get home?
  • What should I do if I lose my key?
  • What should I do if the power goes out?
  • What should I do if I am not feeling well?
  • Who can I call if I need help?

The “Am I Ready” and “Am I Prepared” questionnaire helped you to identify some of the things that you need to talk about. Make a list of some of the decisions that the 10 to 14 year old might have to make such as:

  1. Home safety
  2. Emergency situations
  3. The rules
  4. Safety while walking on sidewalks and/or streets.

The “You Are Not A.L.O.N.E.” worksheet below lists possible scenarios that families should talk about to make sure everyone is clear about what is important.

  • Talk about each scenario on the list.
  • The 10 to 14 year old should write all of the answers in the space provided. This is to make sure they know how to act in different situations.
  • If the 10 to 14 year old is in a situation where they are not sure what to do, the best policy is to use their best judgement and/or; call a parent/caregiver, the designated emergency support person, or in cases of an emergency, 911.

Download a copy of the You Are Not A.L.O.N.E. Worksheet

Everyone in the family needs to know what to do to stay safe in the event of a home and/or building fire. As a family, take time to review fire safety and create a fire escape plan with everyone in your home.

The Alarmed for Life – Your Home Safety Kit is a booklet to help your family develop a fire safety plan. It is available for download in multiple languages.

The brochure Fire in Your High Rise is also available on the Internet in multiple languages.

Toronto Fire – Fire Safety Public Education Services also provides a free workshop on fire safety. To find out more on how you can schedule one at your school, please call 416-338-9375, or email tfspubed@toronto.ca.

For more information about fire and carbon monoxide safety, go to Fire Services Safety Tips and Prevention or contact your local fire departments non-emergency number.


  • Children under the age of 10 must be with an adult or a responsible older person of appropriate age when crossing the street.
  • To keep your 10 to 14 year old safe, it is important role model pedestrian safety skills.
  • Some helpful tips you can talk about and practice with your 10 to 14 year old are:
    • Stop, look and listen for traffic.
    • Only cross at corners and crosswalks.
    • When there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic and as close to the edge of the road or on the grass as safely possible, but away from water.
    • Look to see that drivers see you before crossing in front of them.
    • Wear light-coloured and/or reflective clothing.
    • Never run into the street suddenly without looking and ensuring your safety first.
    • Obey crossing signals, always stay alert and know your surroundings.
    • Cross only if there is no traffic and you have enough time to make it across the street safety.
    • While walking, avoid distractions such as looking at your smart phone.
    • Do not wear earbuds or headphones while walking – you need to hear approaching vehicles and other possible dangers.
  • Assess if your 10 to 14 year old is ready to walk home or to school by themselves.
  • If they are not ready to walk alone and you are not able to walk with them, help your 10 to 14 year old plan their route and find a responsible older person of appropriate age or an adult to walk with them or, several responsible youth who can walk to the location together.
  • Practice and discuss with your 10 to 14 year old how to properly and safely cross the street.
  • Practice and discuss with your 10 to 14 year old how to use the TTC including reviewing where the TTC stop is, the right bus/streetcar/subway to take and how to read the bus/streetcar/subway map(s). Inform him/her that they can also ask a TTC employee or security guard if they are in need of help.
  • Teach and discuss the dangers of using cell phones and other hand-held devices, as well as the dangers of eating/drinking or talking while walking.

10 to 14 year olds should know the following:

  • To never approach or enter someone’s car or go anywhere with anyone, even if the person knows the 10 to 14 year old’s name and/or says their parent(s)/ caregiver(s) told them to pick them up.
  • If approached by a stranger in a vehicle, run the opposite way the car is heading to a safe place (to someone they know, to where other people are, etc.). Only go with someone they know (e.g. family friend or relative) if their parent(s)/caregiver(s) have given permission beforehand to be picked up by that individual on that specific day.
  • If they are being followed, to go to the nearest public place where there are many people and call out for help or ask someone for help. For example, “Please help me, I don’t know this person that is following me!”
  • To report to their parent(s)/caregiver(s), school authorities or a police officer anyone who acts suspiciously towards them or makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • To have a way to communicate (e.g. cell phone or money for a pay phone).
  • To trust their feelings and say “No” to an adult or anyone when necessary, especially if that person wants them to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable or that they know is wrong, even if they know the adult.
  • To have alternate safe route home from school (with street lights, crossing guards, and/or crosswalks). Parents/caregivers should help the 10 to 14 year old decide on the safest way to walk to and from school.
  • To cross the road at intersections with lights, a crosswalk or cross with a crossing guard. Make sure the traffic has stopped and remains stopped before crossing the road and always look around before crossing. If crossing at a crosswalk, press the button and wait until the traffic in both directions has come to a complete stop.
  • To always pay special attention to vehicles that are turning and/or backing up.
  • To call their parent(s)/caregiver(s) when they arrive home.
  • To tell their parent(s)/caregiver(s) where they are at all times.


For more information about street safety, call your local Police Department or go to Toronto Police Services – Keeping Your Child Safe.

Home Safety

  • When preparing to have your 10 to 14 year old stay at home alone, it is important to think about safety and preventing injuries. Approximately 95% of all injuries that occur could have been prevented by recognizing unsafe environments, conditions and behaviours.
  • Consider the possible dangers and risks and have a conversation with your 10 to14 year old about how they could be handled.
  • Having an emergency contact list and emergency training and/or practicing for possible emergencies will help increase your family’s confidence in handling emergency situations.

Important phone numbers:
Download a copy of the Important Phone Numbers document

Physical Activity

For health benefits, 10 to 14 years old should accumulate at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily that is of moderate to vigorous intensity.

Encourage your child to take advantage of their travel to and from school as an opportunity to be physically active.

Brisk walking (active transportation) to and from school is an excellent way to include physical activity in your day.

Food Preparation

Kitchens are equipped with many tools that make food preparation quick and easy but if not used properly or correctly, can cause injuries. Follow these tips to protect yourself when making safe and healthy snacks.

  • If you use a microwave oven, make sure it is at a safe height and within easy reach of all users.
  • Only use microwave-safe containers, lids and wraps in a microwave.
  • Allow the container to sit for several minutes before removing it from the microwave and opening it. Use oven mitts to remove the hot container from the microwave if needed.
  • Do not use aluminum foil or any containers with metal in the microwave.
  • When lifting any cover off a microwave container make sure it is opened away from the face and body.
  • Use a knife that is the right size and blade for the food you need to cut.
  • If a piece of food becomes stuck in the toaster, to avoid dangerous electric shock and burns, make sure to pull the plug out first and let the toaster cool down before attempting to remove the piece of food.
  • If using a kettle, make sure the lid of the kettle is firmly closed before pouring the hot water out of it. Do not overfill the kettle.
  • Ensure all cords (e.g. for the kettle or toaster) do not dangle off the side of the table/counter where a young child or animal could tug at them.
  • When using the stove, make sure it is clear of any items and that you turn on the correct burner. Turn handles of pots and pans inward and use the back burners whenever possible.
    • Parents/caregivers: If you have assessed that they are ready to use the stove/oven when home alone, ensure that you have reviewed how to use it.
  • Avoid using pressure cookers when at home alone.
  • Avoid frying or cooking with oils due to the greatly increased potential for fire and serious burns.

If possible, avoid preparing snacks and meals that require the use of sharp utensils.

Healthy Snacks

To avoid conflicts when it comes to after school snacks, it is important to agree on a few nutritious snack options.

  • Snacks should not take longer to make than to eat (baked goods can be made ahead in batches and stored).
  • Stock up on basic ingredients that can be easily combined to make a satisfying and nutritious snack.
  • List instructions on how prepare the snack(s) for your 10 – 14 year old to refer to if needed.
  • Be sure to also include instructions on how to properly and safely handle food and cooking utensils in the kitchen, and while cleaning up.
  • Some healthy snack options could include: apples and peanut butter, whole grain pita bread, naan or vegetables with hummus or tzatziki, fresh vegetable spring rolls with peanut dip (unless a peanut allergy is present), whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt, and fresh fruit.

For more information on healthy snacks and meals, go to Toronto Public Health – Nutrition and Food Access.

Alcohol and Other Drugs

  • It is important for parents/caregivers to engage in ongoing open discussions with their 10 to 14 year old about the risks and harms of alcohol and other drugs including prescription drugs.
  • It is also important to keep alcohol and other drugs, including prescription drugs, safely locked up out of reach and inaccessible to children and adolescents in the home.

Toronto Public Health offers a free workshop for parents/caregivers of children 10 to 14 years old on alcohol and other drugs, and how to talk with your teens about these substances. For more information on this workshop, contact Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600.

In addition, free parent modules providing information about alcohol and other drugs as well as tips and strategies on how to talk with your 10 to 14 year old about these substances can be found at Peel Region Talk About Drugs Online Parent Modules.

Personal information including any photos or videos posted on social networking sites or apps are not necessarily private and can be accessed and downloaded by anyone. It is important to have an open conversation with one another about the risks involved in using social media and how to keep safe,

Preteens today use social media to communicate and exchange information. While there are benefits to social media, it also poses many risks, for example:

  • Oversharing of information, including personal information.
  • Inappropriate actions/behaviours because of peer pressure.
  • Cyberbullying.

Parents/caregivers and preteens/adolescents can work together to reduce the risks.

Tips for Preteens & Adolescents

  • Keep personal information such as passwords, PINs, name, age, address, and location settings private.
  • Use a code name for your username when creating social media accounts such as, Snap Chat, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
  • Never agree to meet with anyone you first met on the Internet; always tell your parent/caregiver/trusted adult.
  • Be aware of and obey the law regarding making comments and posting pictures or videos on the Internet of someone else. Once sent, you will no longer have control over this data and it may also never be fully retrieved. For more information on social media and the law, visit: prevnet.ca.
  • Never send out mean or rude texts, messages, and e-mails to anyone online and never respond to them.
  • Invite your parents/caregivers to “friend” or “follow” you and discuss their accessing your account to ensure your safety.
  • Report any online threats, negative comments, harassment or inappropriate activity to the social network and/or to your parent(s)/caregiver(s).

Tips for Parents/Caregivers

  • Create an agreement with your 10 to 14 year old around smart phone and social media use.
  • Discuss rules, expectations and consequences with your 10 to 14 year old.
  • Educate yourself about the various social media platforms commonly used by preteen and adolescents and issues surrounding social media.
  • Monitor your 10 to 14 year old’s smart phone and Internet use including when they are being used and what sites they are using.
  • Install software to block inappropriate material and/or websites and/or to monitor online/smart phone activity.
  • Encourage your 10 to 14 year old to keep all personal information private such as passwords, PINs, name, age, address and location.
  • Talk to your child about online dangers (e.g. cyberbullying).
  • Have a discussion with your 10 to 14 year old when it is acceptable to use or have geolocation on (e.g. only when using google maps to help direct them to and from home).
  • Check their privacy/security settings on a regular basis.
  • Teach your 10 to 14 year old to trust their instincts – that if one feels a situation seems unsafe, it probably is.
  • Encourage your 10 to 14 year old to tell a trusted adult who can help when they feel unsafe.
  • Remind your 10 to 14 year old to be aware of their surroundings instead of focusing their attention on the phone such as when walking or crossing streets.
  • Be a good role model in your own use of smart phones and the Internet.