Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

7 May, 2015

Smartphone mania drives Chinese families apart


Beijing, (China Daily), 2015-05-06 – People should switch off their smartphones for an hour every day to prevent the use of mobile apps from eroding family ties and restricting direct communication between people, say researchers.

The call was prompted by a survey carried out by Marriage and Family, a monthly magazine affiliated with the All-China Women’s Federation.

Smartphone mania drives families apart

The survey found that the more time people spend using mobile electronic devices, the more they put their family relationships at risk.

Family members were advised to increase the amount of time they spend communicating face to face, and to do other things with their family members instead of keeping their eyes glued to their phone screens.

Marriage and Family describes itself as the nation’s largest “emotional consulting” magazine. The survey, released on April 29, found that 73.3 percent of more than 500 million smartphone users in the country prefer to leave their devices switched on around the clock.

Xu Yan, dean of Beijing Normal University’s School of Psychology, said that more and more people are realizing that communicating with electronic devices erodes the quality of family and social ties.

The survey also found that married couples who use their smartphones when they are together — accounting for 47.2 percent of all couples in the country — tend to be less happy than those who do not.

The survey attracted more than 13,000 valid responses, and 60.1 percent of those who are married complained about intrusion from the “electronic rival” in their relationship.

Excessive use of smartphones also tends to interfere with the parent-child relationship, with 36.6 percent of respondents saying they use their electronic devices to keep their children quiet.

Personal health is also suffering. The researchers found that 62.8 percent of respondents take their device to bed, and 50.3 percent continue to use it after turning off the lights. People in the latter group find it five times more difficult to get to sleep than others.

The average age of the respondents is 28. Half are married, and the majority have college degrees.

Zhen Yan, director of the China Marriage and Family Study Society, warned that mobile electronic devices are putting a squeeze on family time and conversation, and that they pose a threat to the country’s overall family happiness index.

Zhang Meng, 33, an online games analyst who lives in Beijing, admitted that his girlfriend becomes annoyed, and even starts to quarrel with him, if he does not stop playing his favorite game on his iPhone. He added, “But it is true, I can’t put my phone away.”

Ye Ziqing, a 67-year-old Beijing resident, said his son and daughter-in-law use their devices so much that his grandson likes to spend time with his grandparents rather than his parents.

“My family is a victim of modern technology,” Ye said.

Wang Jun, a specialist at Beijing Weiqing Marriage Consultant, said, “It is a mistake if people think being in the same room (playing with their separate devices) is the same as being together.”

Li Ying, a professor of law at China Women’s University who specializes in women’s rights, said, “A lack of the more important face-to-face communication will inevitably ruin the whole relationship.”

Contact the writers at luowangshu@chinadaily.com.cn and zhengjinran@chinadaily.com.cn