Both sides of the debate express concerns about children’s mental and emotional development.
Considering the copious amounts of anime, manga, and video games that Japan produces, one might assume that the whole country has a more or less favorable image of those three media categories. That’s not the case, though, with a not-insignificant number of parents seeing Japan’s most iconic pop culture representatives as a detriment to their children’s mental development.
Japanese website My Navi Gakusei no Madoguchi recently polled current university students in Japan whose parents had prohibited them from watching TV, reading manga, or playing video games while growing up and asked them if they intended to do the same if and when they had children of their own in the future. While the researchers collected answers from only 81 respondents (34 men and 47 women), they received a wide variety of thought on the pros and cons of letting young children indulge in the popular forms of entertainment.
37 percent of the respondents said that they plan to raise their children as they themselves were raised, not allowing them to consume anime, manga, or video games. Though that makes the group the minority, it’s still a surprisingly large contingent of early-twentysomethings to be championing such a strict parenting policy.
Several cited concerns that the unholy triumvirate of manga, anime, and games would hamper their children’s studies. “I want my kids to get into a good college,” stated one of many who equated the hobbies with reduced academic performance. “I have an image of kids not studying very much if they spend too much time playing games,” worried another, and at least one respondent said she had experienced such a phenomenon first-hand after getting into college. “Once I became able to read manga and watch anime, the amount of time I spent studying dropped,” recalled the 19-year-old freshman.
Another reason multiple respondents plan to keep anime and games away from their kids is a fear of it negatively impacting their physical well-being or social circle. “I want my kids to play outside energetically. [Games and anime are] bad for their eyes,” declared one survey subject. “If they don’t play outside with friends when they’re kids, they’ll have problems when they grow up,” fretted another.
On the other side of the debate, though, the 63 percent who plan to give their kids more freedom than they enjoyed had counter arguments for many of the points mentioned above. Not being able to play video games at all can actually make it harder for some children to make friends, as more than one respondent remembered feeling left out of fun conversations among game-loving classmates. “I’d like them to have common interests they can talk about with other kids,” said one proponent of more lenient parenting.
Others on the pro-anime/game side argued that as far as mental development is concerned, learning self-control and time management are as important as achieving high test scores. “I want my kids to learn how to judge for themselves whether it’s time for work or play,” hoped one, while another said “Rather than being banned from enjoying those things, the important thing is for them to learn to know, on their own, when it’s time to stop.”
One of the strongest supporters of pop culture felt as he did because “Games and anime are a part of culture, and I want my children to experience them.” That might sound like a lofty estimation of entertainment media, but even things that were originally made to provide fun or enjoyment can eventually become part of a society’s shared cultural experience, like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings have in the West. One man in the survey even went so far as to say that he hopes that through experiencing the variety of perspectives portrayed in fiction, his children will become more flexible and open-minded thinkers.
Finally, there were those who plan to let their kids enjoy anime and manga for practical reasons. “If you tell kids they can’t enjoy those things at all, that just makes them all the more likely to get completely absorbed in them,” felt one respondent, echoing a theory that we’ve heard before.
Perhaps the most rationally minded comment came from the man who said “Doing anything to excess isn’t good for you. There’s nothing wrong with games in and of themselves,” which explains why the majority of the survey respondents concluded that prohibiting them outright is going a step too far.
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