The ‘Bowed Head Clan’ (低头族): Mother Watches Phone While Son Drowns in Pool

The shocking footage that showed how a Chinese mother played on her phone while her 4-year-old son drowned in the pool – just a few meters behind her – has sparked discussions on the dangers of being a ‘smartphone addict’ (低头族).

A tragic story has received much (social) media attention in China and beyond over the past week. It concerns an incident that occurred on January 3rd in the “Spa World” pool in Xiangyang, Shaanxi, where a mother was watching her phone as her 4-year-old son struggled in the water behind her. Footage shows that after 3 minutes, the young boy drowned.

According to Sina News, the woman had taken her son and her 6-year-old daughter to play in the local spa resort’s kid’s pool area. When they were about to leave, the woman, named Xiao, discovered her son was no longer in the shallow end of the pool and she alerted the swimming pool staff.

Mrs. Xiao looks down on her phone as her child is drowning just a few metres behind her.
Mrs. Xiao looks down on her phone as her child is drowning just a few metres behind her.

It allegedly took the staff an hour to find the 4-year-old on the bottom of the swimming pool – he had died by the time they found him. The incident, captured by security cameras, triggered different discussions on Chinese social media about who can be held responsible for the boy’s death and had many netizens talking about the dangers of ‘smartphone addiction.’

 

“I hope this is a warning for all netizens to put down their phone and don’t be a smartphone addict.”

 

“If the swimming pool has security cameras it would make sense if they would actually be monitored. They could have saved him if they saw he was drowning,” one netizen says, adding: “I also hope this is a warning for all netizens to put down their phone and don’t be a smartphone addict.”

“Where are the lifeguards? Where are the warning signs? Where is the disclaimer warning people that entering the pool could kill you? This poor woman has lost her baby and you are talking about her sense of responsibility, her world has collapsed!” one netizen comments.

The swimming pool where the accident happened (海泉湾温泉世界).
The swimming pool where the accident happened (海泉湾温泉世界).

The swimming pool reportedly had a shallow end of 0.30 metres and a deep end of 1.3 metres. The boy drowned at a depth of 1.1 metres.

Although many people think the swimming pool can be held (partly) accountable for the incident, a majority of netizens thinks that the full responsibility lies with the mother. “Being a mother takes responsibilities,” one person

“Being a mother takes responsibilities,” one person comments: “Especially when your child is only 4 years old, you never know what they can do. She did not notice anything for a whole 3 minutes.”

“She deserves to be punished,” one Weibo user from Beijing even writes. “She is too careless,” others comment.

 

“In China, ‘smartphone addicts’ are referred to as ‘dītóuzú’, ‘the bowed head clan’, as people usually look down to scroll on their phone.”

 

According to Tianjin News, surveys have pointed out that 40% of parents at times neglect their children while looking at their cellphone.

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“Dad, you can’t ignore me!” image via Tianjin News.

Last October, a 2-year-old girl from Yueyang, Hunan, was hit and killed by a car as she was walking in front of her mother and got underneath a driving vehicle. Her mother did not notice as she was staring down on her smartphone. The accident happened within a time frame of just 20 seconds and led to media warning China’s smarthpone addicts to pay attention instead of staring at their screen.

Sina News also reported about a young mother from Chongqing who recently lost her 3-year-old daughter as they were taking a stroll while the mother was looking at her phone – not even noticing her child had wandered off. Police officers later found the little girl unharmed.

CCTV cameras captured how a little girl walked in front of a car in Hunan as her mother was looking at her phone.
CCTV cameras captured how a little girl walked in front of a car in Hunan as her mother was looking at her phone.

In China, ‘smartphone addicts’ are referred to as dītóuzú (低头族), literally: ‘the bowed head clan’, as people usually look down to scroll on their phone.

 

 

On Weibo, the hashtag “Don’t be a smartphone addict” has gained some popularity, with people reminding each other to pay attention to your family and friends instead of staring at your phone.

“Smartphone addiction is getting more and more widespread,” one Weibo user remarks: “People just seem inseparable from their phones.”

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Hong-Kong singer Alex Fong posted a picture of his parents on New Year’s Eve, saying: “Smartphone addiction is not just something of the younger generations anymore..”

 

“Wake up, ‘bowed head clan’!”

 

Chinese media point out that being a smartphone addict is also dangerous for one’s health, as it can lead to a painful neck, dizziness, numb fingers, and even permanently damage our spine.

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“Wake up, ‘bowed head clan’!” the People’s Daily writes.

The newspaper lined up 8 questions to test how addicted you are to your phone. They include the following:
1- Do you feel less secure when you have left the house without your phone?
2- Do you always take out your phone to scroll Weibo or WeChat or play a game when waiting for the bus, train or elevator?
3- Do you have your phone within reach when driving, and do you use it when waiting for a red light?
4- Do you often take pictures of your food before eating, sharing it on social media?
5- Are you used to taking out your phone and looking at the screen when meeting up with friends?
6- Do you play on your phone while on the toilet?
7- Do you play on your phone before sleeping?
8- Do you immediately look at your phone screen within moments after waking up?

If you recognize yourself in these questions and have answered three or more with ‘yes’, then you are already part of the ‘bowed head clan’, People’s Daily warns. “Put down your phone,” some netizens say: “Don’t be an addict.”

The swimming pool where the tragic incident happened as been closed for now while an investigation is carried out.

– By Manya Koetse
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Author

About the author: Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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