What is the right age to let a child use a public toilet alone?

It's a question parents have been forced to ask themselves this week after a man allegedly attempted to sexually assault a 12-year-old boy in a shopping centre toilet cubicle in Sydney's south west, according to news.com.au.

The man handed himself into police on Sunday after CCTV vision was released by NSW Police in the wake of Saturday night's alleged incident at Bass Hill Plaza.

The 46-year-old is alleged to have waited inside a cubicle, then pulled the boy in by the waist and hit him over the head.

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The 12-year-old escaped his alleged attacker when two other men entered the toilets and startled the man.

He has been charged with assault with intent to have sex with a child.

The debate is not a new one, and parents weighed in during a Facebook live poll after news.com.au asked if children should be able to use public toilets alone.

It prompted the airing of a widespread fear among parents, with the overwhelming voter numbers saying they did not wish to let their children use public toilets alone.

However, it does not appear a straightforward case.

Many parents commented that their own children, particularly of the opposite gender, did not wish to be accompanied to the toilet by a parent by the time they have reached the age of 12.

The results of a news.com.au Facebook live poll, in which people overwhelmingly voted they would not let their child use a public toilet alone. Photo/Facebook
The results of a news.com.au Facebook live poll, in which people overwhelmingly voted they would not let their child use a public toilet alone. Photo/Facebook

"You can't take a 12 year old boy into the ladies, people don't like it. You can't go into the men's. So what can you do," one person asked.

"How can you accompany a 13-year-old to the toilet if your (sic) his mother," another asked.

"I wait outside the door for him (like a creep) but it is really hard when you are not the same sex and they are that little bit older."

But others said the safety of their children outweighed everything else.

"Nope, my son will continue to come with me till (sic) he is old enough to defend himself or safe," one person said.

"I'm sorry I would rather make people feel a little uncomfortable he comes with me in the female toilets while their (sic) are horrible people in this world who try and hurt children!"

Others accused parents of helicopter parenting and asked exactly how old a child should be before they are allowed to use toilets on their own.

"For goodness sake, stop babying children," said on commenter.

"Of course they can go to the bathroom by themselves. As parents we need to teach our children what to do. How do you expect children to learn how to handle situations, if we do not give them the experience to do it?"

Another said: "Talk about helicopter parenting. Yes it's a shame what happened but many children go to the toilet and nothing happens. Nothing ever good comes of knee jerk reactions."

"There comes a time when kids do get older and you have to hope and trust they are going to be OK," said another.

"If you make children fearful of every shadow that is what they will grow up to be. And honestly if you look at the stats most of the assaults are perpetrated by family members."