Home Alone, Safe and Sound

It might be time to consider one of these smart security systems, for your kids' safety — and your peace of mind

by Christy Matte | Updated 25 Oct 2017 at 9:59 AM

Let’s face it: At some point, your kids will probably need to be home alone. While it may be exciting for them and liberating for you, it can also be nerve-wracking. A home security system with home automation features can help ease your fears while giving your kids a bit more independence and flexibility in their schedules.

You may be thinking of a home security system in outdated ways: a loud alarm on your doors and windows and the chance for an unexpected (and unnecessary) visit from the local police force when your kids forget the code. But security systems have adapted with the times and are now smarter and more flexible than ever — they range from do-it-yourself devices to more comprehensive systems installed by a home security professional. Many of today’s connected or “smart” security systems run on Wi-Fi connections and are integrated with other devices in the home.

Using a mobile app, you can even monitor, manage and control these features remotely.

Here are a few devices to consider when putting together your home security system.

Locks. You may hope that your kids will text you when they arrive home, but dead batteries and distracted kids often mean that the opposite is true. A smart lock will notify you when the door has been unlocked, and it can even tell you who has arrived based on the code your child entered. It's a non-intrusive way to know that your children got home safe and sound. As a bonus, when your kids head out again, you can check to make sure they locked the doors as they left.

Related: True 'Home Alone' Nightmares

Cameras. While cameras have long been part of a comprehensive security system, newer options include Wi-Fi-enabled cameras that can trigger an alert when motion is detected. You can actually get visual confirmation that your kids made it home safely after school via your smartphone, through a mobile app connected to the camera. (You can also check in at any time to see what they're doing.)

What's more, some cameras are embedded into a doorbell, so when your kids are home without you, they can use an app to see who is at the door without revealing that they are home alone.

Thermostats. A connected thermostat, like those by Nest or Zen, is also a great tool for kids who are home on their own. Depending on the features offered by your home security provider, thermostats can be integrated with your security system to trigger the heat or AC under certain circumstances.

For example, they can lower the heat when the security system is armed in the morning. There is no need to leave the heat on all day or rely on your children to adjust the heat when they get home.

Related: The Parenting Style That Helps Kids Most

Lighting. For kids who may arrive home later in the evening to an empty and dark house, smart lighting is a perfect solution. Wi-Fi-enabled bulbs, such as Phillips Hue or Lutron, can be programmed through a mobile app to turn on automatically as kids walk up the driveway.

Smart detectors. Fire and CO2 alarms are now available in the smart variety. In addition to their normal alarm capabilities, they can be programmed to send a text message or email, alerting you to emergency situations at your home when you're not there.

Tips for getting started. When adding a home security system that your kids will interact with, there are pros and cons to consider, as well as many options. While these systems undoubtedly offer peace of mind for the whole family, as well as a deterrent for criminals, parents may be wary of the price tag or the anxiety that comes with anticipating an accidental alarm trigger.

Related: New American Dream: Living in a Home the Size of a Storage Container

Here are some smart tips for making it a positive experience for the whole family:

1.) Explore your provider options and consult a professional. For example, your local cable company may allow you to bundle their home security solution into your TV, internet and phone services. Choose a provider that works with many smart home products so you can customize your features.

2.) Tailor your solution to the ages and maturity levels of your kids.

3.) Teach kids to never give out security codes to others without your permission, even their best friends.

4.) Consider having audible alarm systems disable automatically at times that kids will be arriving home and enable again in the evenings, or when no one is home.

5.) Don't be afraid to start with a few connected home devices and add on over time. Some security plans include door/window sensors and a motion detection device to get you started.

6.) Stress the value of having a home security system to give the family peace of mind, rather than something to fear.

7.) Practice triggering the alarm together, so children know what to expect in all circumstances.

A smart home security system can be a great relief for parents who have kids home alone, as well as for kids who are just getting used to that independence.

The best part is, it allows you to remotely monitor your home from anywhere and check in on your loved ones when they forget to check in with you.

Christy Matte is a Boston-based writer who covers home security and automation for XFINITY Home. A die-hard techie, she blogs at QuirkyFusion.com.

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