Monday, 24 January 2011

Argue with Roboseyo: Feral Kids/Latch-Key Kids

Update: the show went great!  We had more callers than we knew what to do with, and that's always the way to have the most fun on the radio.  Thanks to everybody who called.
Also, thanks for the awesome comments here; to get your comments read on air (we won't always have time to get to every one of them), following the patterns of Marc Hogi, and Dan, in the comments to this point, is great: concise, specific responses, with concrete experiences or points.  I especially like how Dan did one or two sentence point-by-point comments.  Thanks a lot.  Well done, readers!  See you tomorrow!
Well, folks, I'm hosting a part of The Evening Show on TBS E FM, one of Korea's English radio stations now.  It's a call-in show, where you can phone the station and voice your opinion about different topics, and the more callers we get, the more fun it is.  You'll see previews about the topics here, and any comment you leave here might get read on air, and if you really have something to say, drop your e-mail address in here and I'll write you about calling into the show: it's more fun with callers than with me reading comments on air.

The topic today is "Mart Kids" - this really sad article in the Korea Times looks at kids whose parents are working long hours, who aren't signed up for hagwons (the way most kids fill their hours until mom and dad get home), so they hang out in shopping malls killing time until the folks get home.

Questions that I'd love you to have an opinion about:

1. Is this any different from the latch-key kids of double-income families in North America?

2. Whose responsibility is it to make sure these kids have safe places to pass their time (the government? schools? charities? parents?)

3. What are their parents thinking?  Where's the disconnect, where these kids fall through the gaps?

4. The idea of free-range parenting: giving kids enough freedom to develop a sense of independence - is good, but it should be age-appropriate, right?  What age do you think is an OK age for a kid to hang out alone, or with two or three other classmates, at the mall all afternoon?

5. Is it so bad for kids to have minimal parental supervision?  When I was a kid, my brother biked all around the city, as long as he was home by dark.  Why are people so freaked out now by unsupervised kids?

6. After talking about "Tiger Moms" who fill their kids' entire days with study and lessons, and "Mart Kids" who don't have any structure at all, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of the two systems?

7. If you were a latch-key kid, or grew up without much supervision, and turned out really well, or had a rough time, share your experience.  If you knew a kid who grew up without much supervision, share what you saw with them.  If you're a parent, what's your policy, and why?

Write in, folks.  The show's at 7:30: the more opinions we have, the more fun it is!

9 comments:

Foreigner Joy said...

Kimchi moms.

Roboseyo said...

What are Kimchi Moms?

Dan said...

1. Is this any different from the latch-key kids of double-income families in North America?

Yes. Latch-key kids had no lack of peers when we were growing up. We didn't have to hang out at the mall. We hung out with the scores of other kids in the neighborhood regardless of whether their parents were at home or not. Also, I'd venture to guess that the other kids in the neighborhood weren't at an institute all day every day. Even those who were mall rats were there because that's where the other kids hung out.

2. Whose responsibility is it to make sure these kids have safe places to pass their time (the government? schools? charities? parents?)

Parents. Should parents be encouraging the government to institute programs to improve the lives of these families? Of course, they should. But, is it the governments responsibility? No.

3. What are their parents thinking? Where's the disconnect, where these kids fall through the gaps?

Their parents are likely thinking that they are doing the best they can. Even a dual income family may be bringing in something in the low to mid-20's per year. I doubt that these folks are doing it to pay off their Beemers. Likely, Grandma is talking care of the kids and can't keep track of them and they don't want to sit around the house all day so they scoot over to the mart.

I think that these parents are probably very aware of this reality. It's pretty clear that kids who don't study 24/7 and go through hogwan hell are not likely to "succeed".

4. The idea of free-range parenting: giving kids enough freedom to develop a sense of independence - is good, but

No comment.

5. Is it so bad for kids to have minimal parental supervision? When I was a kid, my brother biked all around the city, as long as he was home by dark. Why are people so freaked out now by unsupervised kids?

They aren't freaked out by kids who do not have access to the same advantages (if you can say that about the hagwon experience) as other kids. This is not about free-range kids, but rather about kids without a lifeline.


6. After talking about "Tiger Moms" who fill their kids' entire days with study and lessons, and "Mart Kids" who don't have any structure at all, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of the two systems?

Balance.

Marc Hogi said...

Rob,

I won't be able to tune in tonight, but I'll drop a comment related to question #5. As a native of New York City, it disturbs me the number of unsupervised children and teenagers I see wandering around public places.

Me being a tall, dark-skinned foreigner, children sometimes approach me to talk or ask questions. While I appreciate the fact that my appearance doesn't scare them off, that kind of situation does make me a little uncomfortable. I usually look around to see if the kid's parent is nearby.

I admit that I don't know the first thing about being a busy parent trying to support a family. And Seoul is arguably a safer city than New York. But in the case of these kids, there must be some kind of alternative to wandering around the mall or wherever the place may be, for example sending the kid to some kind of safe place such as the home of a friend or family member. As a teenager I sometimes hung out at my mom's office after school. I realize that may not be practical for most people, but my point is that parents have to be creative.

Recently I had a conversation with a good Korean friend about his young daughter and the English kindergarten she was attending. (I know this is not directly related to the latchkey kid topic, but I mention it for a reason I'll explain below.) My friend had some concerns about the quality of education his daughter was receiving. I told him that he needed to be involved in every aspect of his kid's education. That would include, among other things, knowing the teacher personally, checking in regularly, and having a good idea of the curriculum.

I explained the concept of PTAs (parent-teacher associations) to my friend. He told me that no such thing existed in Korea.

I mention this because my point is that some parents here, forgive the generalization, seem to go AWOL with their kids. Occasionally on the news we'll see something about a kid disappearing, dying in a PC bang, being assaulted by a stranger, and so on. In such situations, my first question is always "Where were the parents?" This question never seems to get much attention.

Anyway, my $2.50. :) Hope your show goes well tonight. Looking forward to hearing an update.

Eugene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
3gyupsal said...

It's kind of silly that the parents didn't arrange any kind of child care for these kids. It seems like that should be the first priority. Send the kids to a relative or a friend's house or something. Hire a babysitter. I realize that that kind of thing can be difficult if you don't have the money, but still, at least try.

Yeongung said...

2. Whose responsibility is it to make sure these kids have safe places to pass their time (the government? schools? charities? parents?)

How could it ever truly be anyone's responsibility besides the parents? Granted, when a child is at school, the school is responsible for the child's safety and education, but the parent is ultimately responsible for picking the school. Now, I know nothing about how Koreans pick the public school they attend (zoning, test scores, or what have you), but the parent still has some control (move if you have to).

So, if you want a solution, you should start with the parents. Of course, if someone were to actually feel bad enough about this situation to do something about it (besides the parents and the gov't), they could volunteer their time to tutor these kids in English, Taekwondo, math, etc. That could be a quick fix until some sort of gov't program takes effect. Only problem there would be getting the proper permissions, and then finding a safe, adequate place to house us. It would be good publicity for whoever did (assuming publicity works the same across all cultures).

The Korean said...

1. Not enough knowledge on latch-key kids. Pass.

2. Primarily and ultimately parents, but that does not mean parents should be the only ones responsible. Everyone needs to do everything they can.

3. co-sign with Dan's answer.

4. 16 years old and not a day earlier.

5. Sorry to be indirectly insulting your brother Robo, but minimal parental supervision sounds terrible, not in the least because of the dangerous world we live in. I hate fear-mongering, but it still is dangerous.

6. "Mart Kids" have no advantages.

7. Tiger Mom.

joji1909 said...

I used to work in a departmant store during university. Every school holidays we'd have children coming in and spending most of their day playing in the software/games section. Sometimes the parent would collect them near closing time. At other times of the year we'd have all the bums coming in.

Here, this wouldn't even rate a mention were it not January. It's probably easier to make a story out of an issue where there is no one cause and then say 'meh, it happens', than to follow an issue which is far more clearcut (the priest child rape story buried in the least read part of the same page)