Parents on Netflix’s ‘Old Enough!’ Are Better Than You Think | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

The Big Picture

  • Netflix’s Old Enough is an adorable reality show that follows toddlers as they run errands on their own, sparking debates about child safety.
  • The show, popular in Japan since 1991, showcases children’s first-ever errands, highlighting their independence and cultural differences in parenting.
  • While some argue the show promotes negligence, the parents’ values and safe environment contribute to their children’s positive behavior and self-esteem.

On the surface, Netflix’s Old Enough — dubbed “the most wholesome show you’ve ever seen” — is an adorable and feel-good reality show about toddlers running errands on their own. It follows various toddlers between the ages of 2 and 5 as they carry out tasks that adults typically accomplish, including buying groceries, crossing streets, navigating public transportation, and walking alone on busy roads, with only the camera crew as their company. However, since its international release on the said streaming platform, the show has sparked debates about whether it’s safe and morally right to send the kids (who are obviously not old enough) out on their own with no parents in sight. Though many criticized the show for apparently promoting “child endangerment,” some may not have realized that the parents of the kids are far better at their jobs as parents than they are given credit for.

Old Enough is an extremely popular documentary-like reality show in Japan, which debuted in 1991 on Nippon Television under the title Hajimete no Otsukai. It is a sweet, extremely adorable show, with multiple endearing and charming episodes showing the children as they run their first-ever errands all by themselves. Some notable favorites were Episode 16, where three-year-old Ritsuki rode the bus all by himself; Episode 10, which follows three-year-old Koiki as she delivers lunch to his father; and Episode 2, showing four-year-old Yuta making and delivering juice.

The official synopsis for Old Enough reads as follows: “Children go on errands all by themselves for the very first time as a camera crew follows along in this beloved, long-running reality show from Japan.”

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The show was well-received for its wholesome and digestible appeal, featuring children as stars who, despite running errands for adults, are portrayed as their age who can get things adorably messed up sometimes, complete with tears, challenges, and distractions along their journey. It has captured the hearts of viewers by highlighting the kids’ first step toward independence. But when Netflix began streaming re-runs of the show in 2022 — introducing it to the American market — some argued that the show was irresponsible by promoting negligence. While many parents around the world may never let their children run errands alone, this may not be the case in other parts of the world. There are cultural factors to consider, and parenting styles vary greatly among different countries.

The Criticism the Show Has Received Emphasizes the Cultural Differences in Parenting

Image via Nippon Television, Netflix

Despite being loved for years and having been filmed decades ago, the series’ international distribution has sparked a conversation that only serves to emphasize how parenting differs in other countries, most specifically in Japan and America. Of course, the kids aren’t totally alone, as there are camera crews and producers around who are always nearby. In a 2022 interview with Netflix’s Tudum, executive director Junji Ouchi and producer Naoko Yano explained that the crew typically wears costumes so the kids can think of them as passerbys.

The parents, from the start, knew there was someone looking out for their children. In addition, Japan is one of the countries with a low crime rate and an environment that is much more child-friendly than in other parts of the world. Hironori Kato, a professor of transportation planning at the University of Tokyo, said in an interview with Slate that children going to school and/or neighborhood by themselves is a typical thing in Japan, with its roads and streets “designed for kids to walk in a safe manner.” Therefore, even though it makes sense for some parents to express concern about child safety, the kids in the show were not, in any way, subjected to harm.

‘Old Enough’ Actually Encourages Independence

Image via Nippon Television, Netflix3
Image via Nippon Television, Netflix

While critics dubbed the show one that promotes negligence, Old Enough actually never strayed too far from its premise of introducing the Japanese way of parenting. Naturally, parents prioritize their children’s safety over teaching them independence. In the show’s case, most of the kids featured live in rural areas, which are deemed safer than other parts of the country. This writer, for one, who grew up in an Asian household, can attest that most Asian countries encourage a sense of responsibility and independence towards their children. Japan, on the other hand, teaches their children to be independent at such a young age, which is understandably alarming to parents of other cultures.

But what makes the parents better at their jobs as parents is the values that they want to impart to their kids and the culture of a safe neighborhood they have instilled. At such a young age, having parents believe in you to do things can actually positively affect the child’s behavior and self-esteem in the process, which is one of Japan’s parenting approaches. And, of course, it wasn’t at all easy for some to let their offspring go out on their own for the first time. But with their safety ensured with camera crews and producers around to keep them company — albeit something the kids are not aware of — the parents allowed their young ones to explore the big world in their own little ways and taught them the importance of independence at a very early age, giving them an opportunity to navigate life and make decisions on their own.


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