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

The shocking footage of a woman playing 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).

Manya Koetse

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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.

tianjinnews

“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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©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Video Shows Real-Time “Departure” Information Board at Chinese Crematorium

From “cremation in process” to “cooling down,” the digital display shows the progress of the cremation to provide information to those waiting in the lobby. The crematorium ‘departure’ board strikes a chord with many.

Manya Koetse

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A video showing a live display screen announcing the names and status of the deceased at a Yunnan crematorium has been making its rounds on Chinese social media, from WeChat to Weibo, where one version of the video received over 1,7 million views.

Somewhat similar to a real-time platform departure display on train stations, the screen shows the waiting number of the deceased person, their name, gender, the name of the lounge/room (if any) for families, the name of the crematorium chamber, and the status of the cremation process. Below in the screen, it says “the final journey of a warm life” (温暖人生的最后旅程).

For example, the screen displays the names of a Mr. Chen and a Mr. Li; their bodies were in the process of being cremated (火化中), while other cremations were marked as “completed” (完成) or “cooling down” (降温中).

Through such a screen, located in the crematorium lobby, family members and loved ones can learn about the progress of the cremation of the deceased.

The video, recorded by a local on Jan. 7, received many comments. Among them, some people commented on the information board itself, while others simply expressed grief over those who died and the fragility of life. Many felt the display was confronting and it made them emotional.

“It makes me really sad that this how people’s lives end,” one commenter said, with another person replying that the display also shows you still need to wait in line even when you’re dead.

“I didn’t expect the screens [in the crematorium] to be like those in hospitals, where patients are waiting for their turn,” another Weibo user wrote. “It would be better if the names were hidden, like in the hospitals, to protect the privacy of the deceased,” another person replied.

Others shared their own experiences at funeral parlors also using such information screens.

Another ‘departure display’ at a Chinese crematorium, image shared by Weibo user.

“My grandfather passed away last September, and when we were at the undertaker’s, the display was also jumping from one name to the other and we could only comfort ourselves knowing that he was among those who lived a relatively long life.”

“Such a screen, it really makes me sad,” another commenter from Guangxi wrote, with others writing: “It’s distressing technology.”

Although the information screen at the crematorium is a novelty for many commenters, the phenomenon itself is not necessarily related to the Covid outbreak and the number of Covid-related deaths; some people share how they have seen them in crematoriums before, and funeral parlor businesses have used them to provide information to families since at least 2018.

According to an article published by Sohu News, more people – especially younger ones – have visited a funeral home for the first time in their lives recently due to the current Covid wave, also making it the first time for them to come across such a digital display.

The online video of such an information board has made an impact at a time when crematoriums are crowded and families report waiting for days to bury or cremate their loved ones, with especially a large number of elderly people dying due to Covid.

On Jan. 4, one social media user from Liaoning wrote:

I really suggest that the experts go to the crematoriums to take a look. There is no place to put the deceased, they’re parked outside in temporary containers, there’s no time left to hold a farewell ceremony and you can only directly cremate, and for those who were able to have a ceremony, they need to finish within ten minutes (..) At the funeral parlor’s big screen, there were eight names on every page, and there were ten pages for all the people in line that day, I stood there for half an hour and didn’t see the name of the person I was waiting for pop up anymore.”

As the video of the display in the crematorium travels around the internet, many commenters suggest that it is not necessarily the real-time ‘departure’ board itself that bothers them, but how it shows the harsh reality of death by listing the names of the deceased and their cremation status behind it. Perhaps it is the contrast between the technology of the digital display boards and the reality of the human vulnerability that it represents that strikes a chord with people.

One blogger who reposted the video on Jan. 13 wrote: “Life is short, cherish the present, let’s cherish what we have and love yourself, love your family, and love this world.” Among dozens of replies, some indicate that the video makes them feel uncomfortable.

Another commenter also wrote:

I just saw a video that showed an electronic display at a crematorium, rolling out the names of the deceased and the stage of the cremation. One name represents the ending of a life. And it just hit me, and my tears started flowing. I’m afraid of parting, I’m afraid of loss, I just want the people I love and who love me to stay by my side forever. I don’t want to leave. I’m afraid I’ll be alone one day, and that nobody will ever make me feel warm again.”

One person captured why the information board perhaps causes such unease: “The final moments that people still spent on this earth take place on the electronic screen in the memorial hall of the funeral home. Then, they are gone without a sound.”

 

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By Manya Koetse 
with contributions by Zilan Qian

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China and Covid19

Chinese Social Media Users Respond to Covid-Related Death Toll

While many commenters support Chinese authorities for providing data on Covid-related deaths, some questioning the accuracy were censored.

Manya Koetse

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On January 14, 2023, Chinese health authorities officially disclosed the number of Covid-related deaths between 8 December and 12 January. According to Jiao Yahui (焦雅辉), director of the National Health Commission’s Bureau of Medical Administration, a total of 59,938 Covid deaths were recorded. This number only covers Covid-related deaths in Chinese hospitals.

This is the first time China has given an exact number on the number of Covid-related deaths since the ending of its ‘zero Covid’ policy in December.

Earlier this month, Chinese official media stated that it is difficult to accurately assess the death rate during the early stages of an epidemic, and that an accurate assessment would later be made. The last report only recorded 37 deaths between December 7 and January 8.

According to Jiao Yahui, the death toll includes 5503 cases of death due to Covid-related respiratory failure, and 54,435 cases already had underlying medical conditions before getting Covid. The reported average age at the time of death was 80.3 years old, with the overall majority of patients (90.1%) being 65 and older. 56.5% were 80 years or older.

These statements were made during a press conference, where the peak of the current Covid outbreak was also discussed. On January 2, 2023, emergency departments across China saw a peak in visits – over 1,5 million emergency department visits in one day, – after which the number started to decline again. That downward trend was also visible in the number of hospitalizations of Covid patients, which peaked on January 5 of this year with more than 1,6 million patients hospitalized with Covid.

The top comments on Weibo, underneath a post about the death toll by state media outlet Xinhua, all spoke out in support of authorities releasing these numbers.

“It’s good to seek truth from facts, I hope the deceased can rest in peace and condolences to those left behind,” the most popular comment said, with another saying: “The country really did all they could and paid a high price to protect the largest number of people possible.”

“Open and transparent,” was another recurring reply within the comment section, which was controlled and only displayed the comments that were selected by Xinhua (“以下为博主精选评论”).

On TikTok (Douyin), the topic also attracted online discussions, with some threads less controlled than the Xinhua one, such as one underneath a post by the China Business Newspaper (华商报): “This number only counts hospital [deaths], there’s still those who died at home. I hope there’s no illness in heaven,” one Douyin user wrote, another one adding: “This data is not clear. Going back home to the countryside, the whole journey to the county town, there were really too many funerals.”

There were also many commenters sharing their own stories about loved ones they have lost. “This morning, my maternal grandfather passed away because of Covid, I no longer have a grandfather now, it’s so hard to bear.” “My grandfather died, he passed away at home,” others shared.

“Among these deaths is my husband, he was only 32 years old,” one woman wrote.

The fact that China’s recent data on Covid-related deaths only counts those patients who were hospitalized is something that is mentioned a lot by Chinese netizens, who suggest the actual number of deaths must be much higher if it would include those who died at home. Other comments also suggested that the number of deaths in the hospitals might also be underreported, asking for more clarifications on how these deaths had been counted.

This was something that was also reiterated by the well-known political commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who published a commentary on the issue on Saturday. He wrote that the recent numbers should be regarded as “incomplete statistics” (“不完全统计”) at a time when accurately counting the deaths in the midst of this Covid outbreak is very difficult. Authorities therefore only released the number of Covid-related hospital deaths in a “great effort to be objective.”

But the well-known blogger ‘Burn Superman Abao’ (@烧伤超人阿宝), a burn specialist at a Beijing hospital, suggested that the numbers do not make a lot of sense:

In 2021, we had a total of 36,570 hospitals in the entire country, including 3275 tertiary hospitals; 10,848 secondary hospitals; 12,649 primary hospitals; 9798 non-classified hospitals. During the epidemic, most hospitals fully opened and all departments treated patients with respiratory problems in order to take on this epidemic wave. What’s the concept of 60,000 Covid-related deaths in hospitals in over a month? If we assume all deaths occurred in secondary and tertiary hospitals and other hospitals had no deaths, then in five weeks’ time, every secondary or lower-level hospital in China only had an average number of 4 patients dying of Covid. In other words, on average, less than one patient per week per hospital dying of Covid.”

Later, the post was no longer online and his account was temporarily locked. On Sunday, the doctor wrote: “I won’t say anything else. I feel drained.”

Some also refuted Abao’s critique, saying that many tertiary hospitals in places such as Suzhou, Hangzhou or Hefei were not nearly as crowded as those in Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou, and that his claims could not be backed up by data.

One Weibo user wondered: “Is it possible, 60,000? Actually, it is not difficult to count the number [of deaths] – the crematoriums have all the data.”

Besides the discussions on the accuracy of China’s Covid death toll, there are also many commenters who just want to express sympathies and grief over all the lives that are lost: “I just hope they can rest in peace.”

Read more about the end of China’s ‘zero Covid’ policy here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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