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Chinese netizens clock up nearly 5 hrs of digital entertainment screen time a day

2019-06-26 14:51 Wednesday

Chinese internet users now spend an average of 4.7 hours on their handsets every day just for digital entertainment purposes, according to new data collected by a local research firm.


As in the rest of the world, the Asian country’s citizens are increasingly glued to their smartphones, for whom browsing, playing games and watching viral videos has not just become a way of life but the defining feature of people’s waking hours.

A year ago, the number stood at 4.1 hours on average, reflecting a continually increasing encroachment of modern day devices into the average routine.

For its report, the authors QuestMobile defined “digital entertainment” to mean services like reading e-books, listening to streaming music, singing online karaoke, video streaming, mobile gaming, and of course, short videos on apps such as TikTok and WeChat.

The total screen time could even be much higher given the country now prefers paying using QR code instead of cash, not to mention the time spent by children with their smartphones to help them complete their schoolwork. Housewives searching for the best deals on ecommerce platforms were also not included in the final numbers.

From an overall perspective, the number of users of Chinese entertainment apps grew 3.7 percent year-on-year and stood at some 1.09 billion users in April, although this number likely includes duplicates. The number cannot be accurate since China only reached an estimated internet population of 800 million last summer.

Leisure apps are on the rise in step with the spread of cheaper smartphones, affordable data plans and widespread Wi-Fi coverage. Driving the trends are the fun-to-watch micro-videos pioneered by TikTok (known locally as Douyin) and Kuaishou, a Tencent-backed rival.

In April, over 200 million users were registered on China’s short video services, representing a 36.6 percent increase from 1 year ago. That is three times the user size of e-book, music streaming and video streaming apps.

Nowadays, digital entertainment apps are for older generations, too. Take the video streaming sector, which includes both short and long-form video services (such as the Netflix-like offering iQiyi): 40 percent of the users were from the generation born after 1980, 35.2 percent after 1990, 15.2 percent after 1970. That composition is broadly in line with the demographic breakdown of China’s internet user base by age.

In terms of men and women, the gap is small across all app categories. The exception is in two areas. Some 70.5 percent of all live stream viewers are male. The hosts, who are often female, stream everything from singing to video gaming while male users send them virtual gifts. Women, on the other hand, dominate apps that belong to the 2D space of anime, comic and games, making up 66 percent of the total user base.

So should we be concerned about such high levels of screen time? The dangers were made vividly apparent as media outlets around the world recently reported on the parents of a toddler in Jiangsu who were alarmed to learn that their daughter's eyesight was badly affected by her limpet-like smartphone addiction.

The two-year-old, known as Xiao Man, was recently diagnosed with myopia after her parents took her to see a clinician. According to Chinese media reports, Xiao Man started watching shows on the phone since she was just a year old.

Her parents were lax with her screen time and they often let her use the device for long periods. It was the only thing that kept her quiet whenever she was acting up, they said. As time went by, the parents noticed that the child was frowning and squinting while watching shows on the device, and often rubbing her eyes.

At first, they put the behaviour down to a bad habit but decided to take her to the doctor for a second opinion.  To their horror, their daughter was diagnosed with severe myopia (nearsightedness). The doctors informed the family that the condition was irreversible, and her eyesight could get worse as she advances into adulthood.

Doctors advise parents of young children to restrict their smartphones use – kids under the age of 3 should not use them, while children from 3-6 years old should only get up to half an hour of screen time daily.

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