Douyin is de­stroy­ing Chi­nese mil­len­ni­als and Gen-Z kids

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Huang Lan­lan

Imag­ine how an­gry you’d get when agree­ing to meet a friend for af­ter­noon tea, ea­ger to talk face-to-face, only to find that friend more in­ter­ested in check­ing her phone, con­stantly swip­ing at so­cial me­dia while you are speak­ing, her fin­ger twitch­ing like a Parkin­son’s dis­ease suf­ferer.

I met such a friend last week, who hap­pens to be a Douyin ad­dict, cur­rently the most pop­u­lar short-video shar­ing app in China. Sim­i­lar to the for­mer Amer­i­can app Mu­si­cal.ly (which was pur­chased by Douyin’s owner Jinri Toutiao, a Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy com­pany, in 2017), users can up­load and watch self­made video clips. This year it be­came the most-down­loaded non-game app in the do­mes­tic mar­ket, sur­pass­ing WeChat and Ali­pay.

Ac­cord­ing to its man­ager, Wang Xiaowei, 85 per­cent of Douyin users are aged un­der 24. Many at­ten­tion-deficit mil­len­ni­als and Gen-Z kids have be­come ad­dicted to Douyin, which un­for­tu­nately has led to some un­law­ful be­hav­ior.

In April, a 25-yearold man in East China’s Zhe­jiang Prov­ince filmed him­self on Douyin steal­ing Mercedes-Benz hood or­na­ments from over 12 cars in one night, South China Morn­ing Post re­ported.

Af­ter get­ting ar­rested, the man told po­lice he saw a video clip on Douyin on how to steal a MercedesBenz or­na­ment and wanted to have a try. He thought it was a good way to get more “likes” on Douyin and boost his fol­low­ers.

Also last month, five men in Nan­jing, cap­i­tal of East China’s Jiangsu Prov­ince, ha­rassed a woman in a restau­rant by im­i­tat­ing pop­u­lar Douyin clips ti­tled “how to suc­cess­fully flirt with a girl.” The men were de­tained by po­lice, Nan­jing-based Modern Ex­press re­ported.

Many of these “Douyin daily trou­ble­mak­ers” are even hurt­ing their own fam­i­lies, but with­out any le­gal con­se­quences.

A fa­ther in Cen­tral China’s Hubei Prov­ince, for in­stance, was at­tracted by a Douyin stunt show­ing a tod­dler do­ing a back­ward som­er­sault in the air while grab­bing an adult man’s hands. He copied the video with his 2-year-old daugh­ter, but ac­ci­den­tally dropped her onto the ground, leav­ing the poor girl’s spine bro­ken, a Hubei TV sta­tion re­ported.

Is Douyin that ad­dic­tive to ev­ery­one? I in­stalled the app af­ter it first be­came pop­u­lar, but I quickly grew bored of the poorly made videos, the sim­i­lar copy­cat con­tent and the tire­some ad­ver­tise­ments. I unin­stalled it just a few days later.

There’s noth­ing wrong with adults who have strong self-con­trol brows­ing Douyin in their down­time. How­ever, for many ju­ve­niles, Douyin is turn­ing them into brain­dead zom­bies, rob­bing them of their at­ten­tion spans and their in­ter­est in other hob­bies. Over 30 years ago, fa­mous Amer­i­can me­dia scholar Neil Post­man (1931–2003) pointed out the po­ten­tial harm­ful in­flu­ences of TV on chil­dren. In his book The Dis­ap­pear­ance of Child­hood, Post­man sug­gested that, through tele­vi­sion, kids no longer need to rely on strong read­ing and com­pre­hen­sive abil­i­ties to get ahead in life. In­stead, Post­man wor­ried that the next gen­er­a­tion of kids would be­come ob­sessed with this new vir­tual world filled with un­healthy con­tent in­clud­ing drugs, vi­o­lence and eroti­cism.

Sadly, even though TV has been re­placed by smart­phones, noth­ing re­ally has changed as far as the un­healthy view­ing habits of chil­dren. To­day’s Gen-Z kids use apps like Douyin to watch or cre­ate clips fea­tur­ing naughty pranks, sexy dances and dirty jokes.

It is un­der­stand­able that “in­ter­tain­ment” apps like Douyin are en­joy­ing great pop­u­lar­ity among young Chi­nese peo­ple. But par­ents should take more re­spon­si­bil­ity in lim­it­ing their kids’ view­ing time and closely mon­i­tor what they watch and – more im­por­tantly – what they up­load them­selves.

The opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the au­thor’s own and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Global Times.

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