Public Transport Tips for Parents: Keeping Kids Safe When Traveling Alone

10 min read
Public Transport Tips for Parents: Keeping Kids Safe When Traveling Alone

Are you wondering if your kids can go on public transport by themselves?

The thought may seem daunting but the best way to go is to take one step at a time – all the while assessing whether your kids are ready or not yet.

Many people would argue that parents today tend to be pretty cautious and typically wait longer to allow their children some freedoms and responsibilities.

Helicopter parent anyone? But you may be surprised just how responsible they can be when you loosen that apron string just a little bit. Go on mum, you can do it!

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Schoolboy wearing protective face mask while commuting by public transportation

Is there a magic age to go on public transport?

Firstly, it depends if your child is going to and from a specific destination or just wandering around the city. (If they are just going on an outing then a group of mates is highly recommended.)

Secondly, you know your child better than anyone else does. If you think they are mature enough and can handle a stressful situation (if they miss the bus for example), and are street smart to find their way around then they are most likely ready.

Kidsafe NSW says “Public transport will be relied on more when your child enters high school. However, using the service from a young age will establish good practices and instill confidence for both you and your child. Practice taking public transport together at first until your child gains familiarity and confidence.”

According to, the consensus seems to be that five-year-old are too young, six- and seven-year-olds should stay in a group, and that by age 10, many kids are ready.

Keeping in mind that a child under 10 should not cross the road unsupervised.

bigstock A Little Girl Is Going By Bus 305375413 | Stay at Home

What is the legal age in Australia?

While the law does have guidelines in place as to the legal age children can be left unattended, there are no specific rules as to the legal age to use public transport or walk to school alone.

The age children can be left alone and therefore, the legal age to walk to school alone or use public transport varies from state to state.

For example, in Queensland laws explicitly state that children under the age of 12 cannot be left unsupervised.

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.

In other states the law is not as specific and states:

As a parent, you need to use your own judgement based on your own family circumstances and the age and maturity of your children.

School bus transport is available

Don’t forget School bus services are available for most primary schools and are an easy and achievable way for children to get  to and from school.

Children in primary school may still need supervision by an adult whilst waiting for buses and when getting on and off. To find out more about school bus services, either contact your school or your state’s public transport authority.

Have a bus buddy

If your child is a bit on the younger side it is always a good idea to hook them up with someone a bit older (friend or family member) that can keep an eye on them (even from afar!) while they are on the bus/tram and let you know of any issues they may spot.

bigstock Children Students In Yellow Ja 326656150 | Stay at Home

What the kids say

RACV chatted to a couple of school children to get their thoughts on using public transport.

Giving kids the freedom to try different things even make mistakes is essential in building problem-solving skills and preparing them for adulthood.

Ed Campbell, aged 13, said, “I feel pretty confident and excited about tramming to school because I get to be independent and there are a lot of other students going on the same tram. I’m a bit worried about safety with so many strangers in one space and having to carry a large amount home. I also worry a bit about what would happen if my tram was delayed and I got into trouble at school for being late.”

Chloe, 14, travels to and from school using trams and trains, and also uses them on weekends. “I love public transport. It’s so easy to use and I get to be with my friends. I feel safe because there are so many people around, and if I know I’m going to be delayed, I can just text someone,” she says.

How can you help prepare your child?

1. Do a trial run

If your child is going to start taking the bus or train to and from school, you need to make sure they’re familiar with the bus route and the stops, especially if they need to catch more than one bus or train.

2. Travel in groups

There is safety in numbers, so it’s always better to travel with other people that you know and trust””see if your child can join up with friends and travel together.

3. Always have a plan B

As anyone who uses public transport regularly knows, it’s not always reliable – timetables can change due to weather and work along the route.

bigstock A Young Teenager Girl Waiting 293199703 | Stay at Home

4. Give them a phone to contact you

If your child is going to be on public transport alone, you’ll want to make sure they’re safe – so often that means having a phone so they can contact you if there’s an emergency or if they have missed their stop.

5. Use automatic top-ups

Ensure they’re never caught out with an expired or zero-balance travel card by using the card top up system, which is usually available online when you register the card.

6. Breathe!

Most important of all, remember to breathe and stay calm! Don’t forget kids pick up on our anxiety and if mum is stressed then they will be too.

I recall the first time my eldest caught the bus I actually stuck around near the bus stop to make sure he got on OK.

Much to his embarrassment!

mother with small children wearing masks protects herself from coronavirus public transport 169016 6560 | Stay at Home

Additional tips for parents letting their kids on public transport

As a parent, it can be tough to decide when your child is ready to start taking public transport on their own. But with a few simple tips, you can help make the transition as smooth as possible. Here are a few things to keep in mind when letting your kid take the bus or subway solo.

Make sure your child knows their home address and phone number

It’s important that your child knows their home address and phone number in case they ever get lost. Make sure they know how to call you or a trusted family member if they need to. You should also teach them to identify public transport options in case they need to get home without you.

If your child is old enough, you can give them a prepaid phone card so they can call you in an emergency. Always make sure your child has your contact information with them when they leave the house, just in case. By taking these precautions, you can help ensure that your child stays safe if they ever find themselves alone and lost.

Teach them how to use public transport – buses, trains, etc.

Public transport can be a great way to get around, especially if you’re going somewhere that’s not within walking distance. It can also be cheaper than taking a taxi or driving your own car. However, public transport can be confusing, especially if you’re not used to it. That’s why it’s important to teach children how to use public transport from an early age.

Start by showing them how to read a bus or train schedule. Then, teach them how to pay for their fare. If they’re old enough, show them how to purchase a ticket from the vending machine. Finally, explain how to board the bus or train and find a seat. By providing this instruction early on, you’ll set your child up for success when they need to use public transport in the future.

Explain what they should do if they get lost or feel unsafe

Public transport can be a great way for children to get around. It’s usually safe, reliable and affordable. However, there are some things that children should keep in mind when using public transport. Firstly, if they feel lost or unsafe, they should try to find a staff member or security guard.

If this is not possible, they should then look for a public phone and call the police. Secondly, children should never accept lifts from strangers, and if someone does offer them a lift, they should make sure that their parents or guardians are aware of this.

Finally, children should be careful not to talk to strangers on public transport, as this can be dangerous. If a stranger does approach them, they should tell a staff member or security guard. By following these simple guidelines, children can stay safe when using public transport.

Remind them to always be polite and respectful to others

It’s important for children to know to always be polite and respectful to others, especially when in public. That means no yelling, no swearing, and no fighting. If s/he on public transport, remember to keep your feet off the seats and to hold on to their belongings so they don’t end up taking up space that someone else could be using.

Teach them so as not to disturb other passengers and be careful not to block the aisles with their bags or bodies. And finally, respect other people’s personal space – don’t stand too close or invade their bubble! By following these simple rules, everyone can have a more pleasant journey.

Give them a small amount of money in case they need to buy something

When children are old enough to travel by themselves, it’s a good idea to give them a small amount of money in case they need to buy something. This could be for public transport or in an emergency. However, it’s important not to give children too much money as this could encourage them to spend unnecessarily.

It’s also important to teach children about money management so that they know how to budget and save. By giving children a small allowance, we can help them to develop these skills and prepare them for the future.

Check-in with them regularly to make sure they’re okay

As a parent, it’s natural to want to keep your children safe at all times. However, it’s not always possible to be there in person, particularly if they’re using public transport to get around. That’s why it’s important to check in with your children on a regular basis, even if it’s just a quick call or text message.

This will help you to make sure they’re safe and sound, and it will also give you peace of mind. Of course, you should also encourage your children to let you know if they ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable so that you can take action accordingly. By staying connected, you can help to ensure that your children are always safe and well.

So, do whatever you gotta do to make it easier for you both. That’s my motto anyway. Good luck!

What You Need To Know Before Letting Your Kids Go On Public Transport Alone | Stay At Home Mum

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Tracy Hardy

Tracy has been a digital content writer for over 10 years and a crazy mum of two boys for nearly 17, so be gentle! The teen years are rough! Beach lov...Read Moreer. Terrible housekeeper. Tea drinker. Wine sipper, who sadly can't eat cheese or ice cream. Life is cruel! Read Less

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