Kuaishou, one of the most popular social video-sharing apps in China, recently aroused nationwide rage for encouraging underage Chinese girls to get pregnant and then show off their baby bumps on its platform.
Before being investigated by authorities last week, Kuaishou constantly promoted photos and videos of teen mothers posing with their babies, or mothers-to-be lifting their shirts and showing off their pregnant bellies. Most were probably around 16 years old.
For example, a 17-year-old nicknamed Xiaomama (little mommy), who already has two other children, uploaded several clips of her and her children, in which she repeatedly emphasized that being an underage mother is something to be proud of. Xiaomama had more than 50,000 followers before her account got shut down.
Similarly, another Kuaishou "hostess" named Xianqiliangmu (literally a virtuous wife and beautiful mother), only 15, posted a photo posing with her 8-day-old infant. "Although becoming a mommy at only 15, I will never regret," she wrote.
Hundreds of other underage mothers on Kuaishou were quite open about their pregnancies and giving birth, using self-made video clips with straightforward titles like "14-year-old gave birth to a son" or "The youngest mom with two children." Many of their videos had hundreds of thousands of views.
Though this unfortunate phenomenon was partly caused by their own ignorance, Kuaishou is also to blame for providing them with an illegal breeding ground. In China, the minimum age for marriage is 22 for men and 20 for women. Having sex with girls under 14, forcibly or not, is legally considered rape.
Many of the teenage mommies on Kuaishou were rape victims, but the app did nothing to help or protect them. On the contrary, Kuaishou was reluctant to make any changes even after public outcry.
Last October, after videos and pictures of a 14-year-old pregnant girl on Kuaishou went viral, the app issued a statement claiming that it had deleted her videos and reported the case to the police, The Beijing News reported on October 30, 2017. But Kuaishou took no further steps to shut down similar accounts.
What's worse, that single case seemed to attract even more teens to imitate her behavior, which resulted in droves of underage girls getting pregnant and then sharing their videos on Kuaishou.
Kuaishou not only connived but also proactively incited a veritable juvenile pregnancy parade. According to an investigative report by CCTV, the platform's administrators used to put clips of underage mothers and pregnant teens front-and-center on its home page, attracting people to click and comment.
A video of a teenage girl with only 1,000 followers, for example, was once selected for the home page. "I'm four-months pregnant but don't dare let my parents know," she said in the video. After the clip received over 100,000 views, the girl was encouraged to record more clips showing off her tummy and sharing her feelings about her "secret" pregnancy.
Parents of these underage girls should be ashamed of themselves. They clearly did not care enough about their child's physical or mental development nor did they provide them with any sex education. Sadly, their teenage daughters will never have the chance to experience childhood now that they themselves are raising children.
Many Chinese parents in this day and age perfunctorily buy smartphones for their children rather than spend quality time with them. This trend pushes today's teens into a virtual world where sex, porn and social-media popularity contests thrive. Failing to distinguish between right and wrong, teenagers are easily influenced by their peers, by celebrities and by the latest social media trends, often imitating the behavior they watch in online videos just to gain the attention that their own parents failed to give them.
Last week, following CCTV's exposure, China's central government asked Kuaishou to rectify the problem. Kuaishou declared Friday that it had closed down hundreds of underage mothers' accounts, and it will recruit 3,000 new employees to censor videos shared on their platform, thepaper.cn reported.
It's good to hear that, though, in this era of "amusing ourselves to death," I'm not too optimistic about the physical and spiritual health of Chinese teenagers, especially those who have irresponsible parents.