Overprotective 'helicopter' parents are no joke

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 2:46am

Parents taking children to kindergarten and primary school are not uncommon in Hong Kong. Increasing affluence and shrinking family size mean parents can afford to devote more time and attention to their loved ones nowadays. It is not unusual for them to take a day off to accompany their child on the first day of school. It is, after all, an important stage of childhood. However, taking their child to university is pushing things to the extreme. A report on students accompanied by parents on their first day at university understandably raised eyebrows, particularly when set against news about cross-border children travelling for hours on their own to local schools.

The contrast speaks volumes about the problems parents and youngsters are facing. While some families have no choice but to make their small children travel alone to school across the border every day, there are those who think their children are never mature enough to take care of themselves. The truth is that universities are places to pursue independent and critical thinking. Those who have survived cut-throat competition to earn a place at prestigious institutions are expected to display such qualities. Their dependence does not inspire confidence in our younger generation.

What's intriguing is that neither the parents nor the children felt embarrassed. One student conceded that she might have lost her way and arrived late for class had her parents not accompanied her to the campus. As Chinese University chief Joseph Sung Jao-yiu observed on the first day of school, half of the people in the university canteen appeared to be parents. Social media is already flooded with jokes saying it is only a matter of time before parents show up at job interviews too.

Hong Kong parents are so overly protective that they have earned themselves the nickname "helicopters" - a reference to their propensity to hover above their children. The sad consequence is that the younger generation may never be able to live independently. The phenomenon has gone beyond a joke and warrants more soul searching.