Are Japanese toddlers as independent as Netflix's Old Enough portrays them?

CNN -- May 21
"Old Enough!" -- dubbed "the most wholesome show you've ever seen" by the streaming giant on the show's debut in March -- is an unscripted series in which Japanese toddlers between the ages of 2 and 5 are sent on simple errands to help their parents, entirely without supervision and often while navigating busy roads and transport systems.

The response to the show in the US has ranged from amusement -- Selena Gomez has parodied it in a skit for "Saturday Night Live" -- to disbelief, to shock and condemnation.

For some American parents, there is even a faint sense of envy that some of their Japanese counterparts are seemingly able to let children roam free relatively safe in the knowledge that Japan's comparably low-crime environment means they are unlikely to come to harm.

The show's creators maintain that it is safe and that production staff and camera crew are always around and on standby. Some even wear costumes to pretend they are road electricians or regular passersby but are at all times, "instructed not to initiate conversation" with the children.

The children, of course, are not always successful in their missions and there are many challenges. Groceries get lost or forgotten and distractions along the way are plenty. But there are no disasters -- something that has added to the skepticism of some critics who question whether it is stage-managed.

But Japanese parents have defended the show's portrayal -- while noting it might not reflect life in all parts of the country. ...continue reading