‘Digital parents’ comfort neglected Chinese youth through viral videos

‘Digital parents’ comfort neglected Chinese youth through viral videos‘Digital parents’ comfort neglected Chinese youth through viral videos
via Douyin
In China, young people who lack familial love have found solace online through a middle-aged couple, dubbed as volunteer “digital parents,” who create videos that offer comfort and support.
Key points:
  • The couple in China, Jiang Xiuping and Pan Huqian, have gained over a million followers on Douyin over the past months for acting as caring parents.
  • Their videos have resonated with many adolescents and young adults who feel neglected or unloved by their real families.
The details:
  • In their videos, the couple share daily activities, such as shopping in a supermarket, and offer comforting messages to their followers, whom they call “daughters and sons.” The videos simulate parental support, with encouraging talks, surprise gifts and pretend money transfers, attracting many to follow and interact in the comments.
  • Followers, some as young as 12, often express gratitude for the warmth and guidance they receive, calling Jiang and Pan “mom and dad.” University student Xiaofu, who suffered domestic violence, also finds comfort from the videos, which she says provides lessons and emotional support that she feels her own parents should have given her.
  • The couple in their 50s, who hails from Shaanxi province, currently earns money through ads and e-commerce on Douyin. Despite their cheerful online personas, the couple faces real-life challenges, including financial struggles with their wedding planning business exacerbated by COVID-19. However, the couple continue to act as digital parents, fulfilling the emotional needs of their followers.
  • “These children call us ‘dad and mom.’ I feel we have more responsibility now,” Jiang told Rest of World. “Their love has warmed our hearts, and we need to do our best to comfort them as well.”
  • Similar accounts like @Xiaolinmama and @Shiyueershiqiri offer housekeeping advice and parenting stories, respectively. The popularity of the “digital parents” reflect the disparity between urban middle-class and rural families in China, leaving many children feeling neglected due to their parents’ lack of resources and time. The country’s limited mental health resources and family-centered culture then contribute to high expectations on children to support their parents financially.
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