The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children feels that children of any age should not be permitted to use public restrooms alone.
Find a Unisex or Family Restroom
Even my 4-year-old son is happy to use the family restroom, and I can be assured that he is safe and even washes his hands. Family restroom laws are changing and, in many states, public establishments with more than six toilets are required to have a family restroom. Ask for help finding the family restroom, which may not be near larger unisex restrooms.
Many older establishments still don't have family restrooms… and so you're stuck. I still drag my 4-year-old son into the ladies' room, but things are getting harder with my 9-year-old son. One hotel we stayed at even had a sign outside the restrooms stating that any child over age 7 had to use a gender-appropriate restroom.
My Public Restroom Survival Guide
Never send a child into a public restroom alone. Ask for assistance from a security guard or employee of the establishment, if needed. Don't accept help from well-meaning strangers who offer it, often as they walk out of the restroom.
Instruct your child to use a private bathroom stall rather than a urinal. Also, instruct them never to talk to a stranger in a bathroom. If a stranger talks to them, they should know to respond that they are not allowed to talk to strangers in bathrooms.
Avoid restrooms with more than one entrance. You might need to go to a different area to find a smaller restroom with only one entrance. Then, try to make eye contact with anyone who enters the restroom while your child is inside.
Stand in the door and talk to your child throughout their time in the bathroom. Call out things like, "Is anyone else in the bathroom?" "Remember, we don't talk to strangers in bathrooms." "Do you need help?" "Did you wash your hands?" "Can you reach the soap?"
Don't be afraid that you might embarrass your child by talking to them at the doorway. At very least, your child won't forget to wash their hands.