- The Netflix show “Old Enough” features children as young as 2 running errands alone.
- Two experts were divided on whether the show makes the children do tasks they’re too young for.
- “Old Enough” has been a hit in Japan for more than 30 years but is new to the US.
series “Old Enough” will likely have the hearts of some parents in their mouths.
It features kids as young as 2 taking on tasks such as shopping for groceries, walking a mile to and from home, and navigating public transport on their own.
Cameras follow the child from a distance while they perform errands and challenges set by their parents and the makers of the show.
The fly-on-the-wall entertainment series has been a hit on Japanese TV for more than 30 years.
The first season is available on Netflix
a season of the show for the first time this year, but the content was filmed in 2013. Each segment, which varies from eight minutes to about 20 minutes, focuses on one child.
In the opening episode, Hiroki, an adorable 2-year-old, is dispatched to a local supermarket. His mom sends him on the mission with a 1,000-yen bill in his pocket. She tells him to buy some fish cakes, curry, and a bunch of flowers.
The Netflix version uses subtitles to translate the commentary. As Hiroki’s sneakers pad along the side of a road, the commentator jokes, “We follow the sound of his squeaky shoes.”
He succeeds, and Hiroki’s pride in his actions and the boost in his confidence are touching to see. He has demonstrated huge independence and earned a pat on the back from his parents.
The kids’ adventures in “Old Enough” are carefully planned and sanctioned by their families well in advance. If anything were to go wrong, the camera and safety crews are trained to intervene.
2 experts are torn on the show
Two parenting experts who spoke with Insider about their views of “Old Enough” had different takes on the show.
Lenore Skenazy, the president of Let Grow, a nonprofit advocating childhood independence, said she was encouraged by the series.
“It’s nice to turn on the TV and a see a show where kids run errands and are happy and successful,” Skenazy said. “It’s not another season of ‘Law and Order’ where they’re kidnapped when they’re outside.”
She described the parenting culture in Japan as more relaxed than in the US. “In America, we only see kids as being in danger,” she said. “If someone saw a 5-year-old, 4-year-old — and certainly more so a 2-year-old — walking alone from the park, they’d have a heart attack and call the police.”
She said she believes that embracing freedom and trust is healthy for grown-ups as well as kids. “It’s a joy of life that we are denying children and ourselves,” Skenazy said.
Tanith Carey, an author of books on parenting, told Insider she had reservations about the show. “I broadly support the idea that children should be taught to do more for themselves,” she said. “When children feel confident, it builds self-esteem.”
She added: “But — and this is a very big ‘but’ — the tasks that adults ask them to perform have to be appropriate for their development.”
Carey also criticized the treatment of the show’s subjects. “It errs on the side of making young children figures of fun and laughing at them by asking them to perform tasks they are not developmentally ready for,” she said.
It’s unclear whether the show will prove as popular in the US as it is in Japan, but the kids’ daring adventures will no doubt delight some viewers and horrify others.