Japanese Netflix show sends lonely toddlers to cities to do chores
- The Netflix show “Old Enough” features children as young as two running errands alone.
- Two experts were split on whether the show forces kids to do chores they’re too young for.
- “Old Enough” has been a hit in Japan for over 30 years, but is new to global audiences.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
The new Netflix series “Old enough” will probably have the hearts of some parents in their mouths.
It features children as young as two years old performing tasks such as grocery shopping, walking a mile to and from home, and navigating public transportation on their own.
Cameras follow the child from a distance as he completes errands and challenges set by his parents and the show’s creators.
The fly-on-the-wall entertainment series has been a hit on Japanese television for over 30 years.
The first season is available on Netflix
Netflix is airing a season of the show for the first time this year, but the content was filmed in 2013. Each segment, which ranges from eight minutes to around 20 minutes, focuses on a child.
In the opening episode, an adorable two-year-old Hiroki is sent to a local supermarket. His mother sends him on a mission with a 1,000 yen bill in his pocket. She tells him to buy fishcakes, curry and a bouquet of flowers.
The Netflix version uses subtitles to translate the commentary. As Hiroki’s sneakers roll along a road, the commentator jokes, “We follow the sound of his squeaky shoes.”
He succeeds, and Hiroki’s pride in his actions and his renewed confidence are touching to behold. He showed great independence and earned a pat on the back from his parents.
The children’s adventures in “Old Enough” are carefully planned and sanctioned by their families well in advance. In the event of a problem, the cameramen and security teams are trained to intervene.
Two pundits are torn on the show
Two parenting experts who spoke with Insider about their take on “Old Enough” had different views on the show.
Lenore Skenazy, President of let growa non-profit organization advocating childhood independence, said she was encouraged by the series.
“It’s nice to turn on the TV and see a show where kids are running errands and being happy and successful,” Skenazy said. “This isn’t another season of ‘Law and Order’ where they get kidnapped while they’re out.”
She described the parenting culture in Japan as more relaxed than in the United States. “In America, we only see children as being in danger,” she said. “If anyone saw a five-year-old, four-year-old – and certainly no longer a two-year-old – walk out of the park alone, they would have a heart attack and call the police.”
She said she believes embracing freedom and trust is healthy for adults and children alike. “It’s a zest for life that we deny to children and to ourselves,” Skenazy said.
Tanith Carey, author of books on parenting, told Insider she has reservations about the show. “I strongly support the idea that children should learn to do more for themselves,” she said. “When children feel confident, it builds self-esteem.”
She added: “But – and this is a really big ‘but’ – the tasks that adults ask them to do have to be developmentally appropriate.”
Carey also criticized the show’s treatment of the subjects. “It goes along the lines of making young children fun and making fun of them by asking them to do tasks that they are not developmentally ready for,” she said.
It’s unclear whether the series will be as popular elsewhere in the world as it is in Japan, but the children’s daring adventures will no doubt delight some viewers and horrify others.