Have you heard about ‘Kid Free Zone’? There is a growing trend among restaurant and coffee shop owners where services to customers accompanied by children are denied. In fact, some cafes are turning over their shops from unrestricted areas to newly created kid free zones.
The ‘Kid free zone’ is a newly-coined expression that refers to restricting access to coffee shops and restaurants for children under the age of 5 and their accompanied adults. There are several reasons for the rise in the number of kid free zones. In some cases, it was reported that mothers left rolled up used diapers on the table for staff to dispose of, when they left the cafe. In addition,
shops are responsible for compensating parents for children injured in their facility even if the accident is a result of the carelessness of their parents.
There are many cafes and restaurants that suffer, because of thoughtless parents who do not pay attention to the behavior of their children. Because of the irresponsible behavior of these parents, the number of kid free zones is gradually increasing.
Many people debate the pros and cons of this policy. Some says it is excessive discrimination, while others argue that it is the first step in being more considerate. Those, however, who are against the policy, argue that it is blatant discrimination when people regard kids as latent troublemakers. The Dankook Herald (DKH) took a closer look at what people thought about kid free zones.
Most mothers are against the establishment of kid free zones. Online child care communities argue that the kid free zones are direct contradiction with our societal values.
They insist kids and parents, who are not guilty of poor public behavior, are being unfairly treated, because of the irresponsible behavior of other families. In addition, they claim that kid free zones are an infringement of their rights. They are upset that there are so few areas where parents can take their children. This policy causes mothers undue hardships.
Opponents also argue that the kid free zone policy may even lead to a new cultural practice where children and adults do not eat their meals at the same table. They say it is slippery slope and that when people start accepting kid free policy they will gradually move towards changing our whole dinning culture for our immediate convenience.
To get the other side of the picture, the DKH interviewed Yoon Gyeong-ae (Owner of one of kid free zone cafe). First of all, the DKH asked why they adopted a kid free zone policy at their cafe. She said, “We applied the kid free zone policy in order to minimize the harm that other customers get from trouble-making children and neglectful mothers. The harm includes loud crying and children bumping into other customers.”
Secondly, the DKH questioned whether or not they have had first-hand experience with poorly behaved toddlers and their parents. She answered, “Frankly speaking, we have had experience with the types of parents that you see in TV and newspaper reports. I mean the parents who change their toddler’s diaper on the table and neglect their child after they come into the cafe. We politely ask them to take care of their children, but they in turn say our customer service isn’t good and spread this message to other mothers.” “Customers should expect the best service, but only when they show an equivalent level of manners,” she added.
Lastly, the DKH asked if there were some people who protested against the policy. She answered, “Of course most parents complained about the policy change and we felt sorry for those who were suffering as a result of the thoughtlessness of other parents, but we will maintain our policy because the inconsiderate behavior of some was hard to tolerate. Our coffee shop recorded a decrease in sales right after we launched the policy, but after few months, our sales grew again and now we are able to maintain the same or higher levels of sales than before. In fact now many customers come to our childless coffee shop in order to enjoy more a comfortable leisure time, so our coffee shop will maintain its kid free zone policy as long as possible.”
The DKH appreciates that there are many people who prefer to go to kid free zone facilities. We interviewed Kim Go-eun, who is a regular customer at the kid free zone cafe. When we asked about any uncomfortable experiences she had had because of poorly behaved children, she listed a series of problems that she encountered in cafes, restaurants, theaters, bars, and even in her own store. The DKH asked her why she thought there was an increase in kid free zones. “Kid free zones are made for the consideration of others. Kid free zones act as a barricade that intercepts parents who don’t teach their children any etiquette,” she said.
Finally, the DKH asked where else she thought needed to have kid free zones. “In the past, I watched movies during the daytime, but I couldn't concentrate on the film because of poor behavior of some kids. Parents didn’t restrain their children from things like singing along with the music, talking, and looking at their cellphones. So now I watch movies at night. It is difficult to restrict kids from watching all movies, however, the theater should consider specifying certain showings of films where the access of children is restricted,” she said.
Kid free zone cafes and restaurants are comfortable places for people who in the past have experienced discomfort stemming from the poor behavior of children and their neglecting mothers. Parents cannot blame the cafe owners for adopting the policy. Kid free zones aren’t a bad temporarily solution. However, if most places restrict the access of children, kid free zones will become a problem for our society.
If we really want to solve the problem effectively, people need to re-discover consideration towards others, such as applying the right discipline according to the occasions and location. Also, Korean society should revise the laws which place all responsibility for damages on the cafes and restaurants when the problem is clearly parental negligence.
허윤아, 이다혜, 박세훈 firstname.lastname@example.org