Chinese parents are struggling to tear their children away from watching short videos, as the popularity of platforms rises across the country.

At the beginning of this year, the Cyberspace Administration of China advised various Chinese video platforms – such as TikTok, Kwai and Huoshan – to roll out anti-addiction features to help cut down the amount of time youngsters are spending watching videos, the Paper reported.

Under the plan, which began in early June, users who spend more than 90 continuous minutes in an app will get an alert, and the app will lock users out completely if they have been watching for more than two hours – though it can be unlocked by entering a password.

In December 2018, the number of short video users reached 648 million, with 80% of those being active users, according to the 43th Statistical Report of the Development of China’s Internet Network

A survey commissioned by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League in May last year found that 20% of young respondents said that they are “almost always” watching short videos, and another 10% said they “watch a few times a day.”

Sun Hongyan, director for research on adolescence at the China Youth & Children Research Center, said that watching short videos or playing video games were means for teenagers to escape from reality.

If they encountered problems in their homes or schools, they might become submerged in the virtual world, satisfying  psychological needs that they can’t obtain in real life.

To overcome addiction, parents should relate to their children and offer them guidance, he said.

Zhang, a father of a primary school-aged son, who enabled a parent-monitoring mode in March to limit his son’s screen time, found that his son cracked the passcode and hid himself in bed to watch videos until midnight.

Instead of scolding him, he paid attention to the content that his son was interested in and started chatting about their interests. Zhang even advised his son to put the skills he learned from the videos into real practice at home.

Zhang said his son now spends less time on screen and their relationship has improved to where they are doing more do-it-yourself projects together.

Parents should be the role models for their children, Sun added. If they are also addicted to using mobile phones, it is hard to convince children to put the devices down. Parents who are addicted users of technology are also unable to spare quality time with their children, which would worsen their relationship.