By Derek Mathews and Yusuf Muhammad

It was during World War II that the term “latch key children” was used in this country. Fathers had gone off to war, and mothers had to work to support the WAR and their families. The children would go home with keys on chains, ribbons, a piece of string tied around their necks. Today about one-half of all children in the country age 12 to 14 are home alone an average of seven hours per week. Despite the hours spent on the job, working mothers spend an average of five-and-a-half hours a day with their children.

According to the U.S. census, one third of all school age children in the United States are, for some part of the week, latch key kids; that is, they go home to an empty house or apartment. The total number may be between five and seven million children between five and 13 years old. The Census Bureau found that 15% were home alone before school, 76% after school and 9% at night. Presumably, the 9% have parents who work night shifts.

An extremely important aspect that predators depend upon for their attack against our youth is “Routine”.  The attacker must be able to formulate a plan based on the normal and predictable behavior of our daily lives and that of their targets. In any family, scheduling and routine are commonplace and necessary to maintain a proper protective framework for their family activities. It is because of this that law enforcement and security consulting forms are taking more proactive approaches to looking at measures to protect our youth.

In much the same way that terrorists utilize predictability, families can use predictable aspects of the predators to potentially stop an attack before it happens.  This is done by capitalizing on the vulnerabilities of the predators while he or she is conducting information gathering operations on homes while our kids are home alone.

These techniques can be implemented to help in accurately predicting where hostile surveillance must be positioned in order to collect the information they require. This methodology can be useful for home protection.  These concepts were originally developed by Derek Matthews for the U.S. government in response to various international attacks. 

If your children are to be in charge of themselves at home, discuss the routines they are to follow to include household chores, homework, family policies on visiting friends or having friends visit them, and what to do when the telephone or doorbell rings. Also, if you are not going to be coming home at your regular time, let your children know, so the can be prepared for anything out of the norm.

Teach Your Children:

  • To memorize their name and address, including city and state.
  • To memorize their phone number, including area code.
  • To use both pushbutton and dial telephones to make emergency, local, and long distance calls and to reach the operator.
  • To check in with you or a neighbor immediately after arriving home.
  • To never go into your home if a door is ajar or a window is broken.
  • How to work your home’s door and window locks and to lock them when they are at home alone.
  • How to answer the doorbell and telephone when they’re home alone.
  • Not to go into anyone else’s home without your permission.
  • To avoid walking or playing alone.
  • That a stranger is someone neither you nor they know well.
  • That if they feel they’re being followed, either on foot or by a car, to run to the nearest public place, neighbor, or “Safe House”
  • To tell you if anyone asks them to keep a secret, offers them gifts or money, or asks to take their picture.
  • To always tell you if something happened while they were away from you that made them feel uncomfortable in any way.
  • Do Not answer the door for strangers
  • Know emergency phone numbers 911 Poison Control and Family members
  • Learn vehicles that belong around the home
  • Never tell callers they are home alone Learn to say, “My Mom and Dad are busy right now” and take a message.
  • Do not order delivery when alone
  • Parents should never have workers scheduled while the kids are alone

By implementing slight adjustments to habits and putting in place basic precautionary measures, the child predator’s advantage can be taken away.

Derek Mathews and Yusuf Muhammad are both former law enforcement officers, collectively having over 35 years of experience in law enforcement and security.  DGM Consulting LLC currently implements child protection type of trainings and has provided operational support for agencies in over 150 international locations.  For additional detail and information go to