Friday, March 23, 2012

Arranged Marriage Enters the Digital Age With Chinese “Baby Dating Site”


In Japan, the government has struggled for years to counter a declining birthrate, one of the country’s most pressing societal problems. Yet in spite of numerous policies and programs, the labor force continues to shrink, pensioners continue to increase and more and more young people are getting married later—or not at all.
However, just because young people aren’t getting married, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to get married. An increasing number of young people dream of one day walking down the aisle, but have simply yet to be struck by cupid’s arrow. In some cases, aren’t sure how to meet new people in the first place.
It seems the youth in neighboring China are starting to suffer from the same dilemma, thanks to the one child policy producing a skewed sex ratio in favor of males. Luckily, one Chinese website has produced a novel solution that tackles the marriage problem before it literally develops: a dating site for babies.
The infant matchmaking service was started by Chinese childcare site Baby Tree and reflects a growing trend in the country of parents looking online to find playmates and partners for their children.
Using the website, parents may create a Fisher-Price® My First SNS Profile, complete with a profile picture and the option to throw an online “wedding” once they think they’ve found the perfect match for their child.
“Divorce” is also an option, though all alimony cases must be settled in the Lincoln Logs Courthouse under a jury of Beanie Babies.
Baby Tree reports that over 200 families joined the site within the first week and already 40 pairs of oblivious toddlers have been made couples.

While the toddlers themselves have yet to comment on the service due to lack of cognitive development, the site seems to be a hit with parents, who comment: “We’re happy we could make other parent friends,” “We’re not actually going to make them marry, but we do like the idea of ‘childhood friends getting married,’ so we can’t help but hope a little,” and “The boy we met on the site is adorable. We only have our daughter, so it’s like we have a new son.”
Some mothers, who reflect on how they had hardly even spoken with a male before being put arranged into a marriage, even see the site as a social step forward: “I don’t want to put my daughter through what I had to go through. I want her to grow up having male friends.”

Conversely, the site has also come under criticism by people who point out that children can easily make friends themselves at kindergarten or elementary school, and that parents who use the site are just looking for a way to control their children’s social lives.
One psychological counselor warns that: “There’s nothing wrong in itself with arranging playmates online. Having friends promotes a child’s growth. However, it’s not advisable to arrange a child’s partner in the long-term. Children start to become aware of gender differences around ages 8-10, and arranging a ‘partner’ during or after this time may lead to precocious puberty.”
While opinions may be split, the popularity of this service attests that Chinese parents hold a certain degree of anxiousness toward their children’s future.
The same is certainly true Japanese parents, and considering how nuts Japan is for brand name baby clothes and other self-indulgent doo-doo that babies themselves don’t give a goo-gaa about, we’re willing to bet a similar service over here would be a huge hit.


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