ChickTok: Indonesian kids given pets to wean them off smartphones

Indonesian pupils look at chicks in cages with signs that read “please take good care of me”, given to them by local officials as part of a program to wean schoolchildren off smartphones, in Bandung, West Java, on November 21, 2019. – Students in an Indonesian city are getting their very own baby chicks to raise as part of a bid — dubbed “chickenization” — to wean them off smartphones. Some 2,000 palm-sized chicks are to be handed out to pupils in elementary and high schools across Bandung, about 150 kilometers southeast of the capital Jakarta, in the coming weeks. (Photo by TIMUR MATAHARI / AFP)

BANDUNG, Indonesia (AFP) — Officials in one Indonesian city has hatched a plan to wean children off smartphones — by giving them their own fluffy chicks to raise.

Around 2,000 four-day-old chicks will be handed out to pupils at elementary and junior high schools in Bandung in the coming weeks in an attempt to distract the kids from their gadgets.

Students must feed their new pets before and after school and can keep them at home or on school premises if they don’t have space in their backyard.

Authorities in the city, around 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of the capital Jakarta, have dubbed the unusual project “chickenization”.

At a ribbon-cutting held Thursday, a dozen chicks in cages were distributed with a sign that read: “Please take good care of me”.

“There is an aspect of discipline here,” said Bandung’s mayor Oded Muhammad Danial.

But the project isn’t just about curbing schoolkids’ phone habits, he said — it is also part of a national plan to broaden pupils’ education launched by President Joko Widodo.

Danial first announced the chick project last month but said the city needed time to sort out logistics with local chicken farms.

Mother Yayah Ratnasari was sold on the chicks-not-smartphones plan, and even expressed hopes it might encourage her son to become a poultry farmer.

“It’s more beneficial for them to take care of chicks than play with smartphones,” she said.

But her teenage son Rabil was less enthused.

“It’s more interesting playing with a smartphone,” he said.

© Agence France-Presse