Wei Jiaqi has recently taken up a new hobby; filming and sharing gesture-dance videos on Douyin, a short video application affiliated to Toutiao, an online news and information platform.
"I think it is a good way of displaying my talent and recording my life," said the first-grade student at Beijing No 15 Middle School.
"I started using the app in October after watching many popular gesture-dance videos－where performers use their fingers and hands to pose in time with rhythmic music－on it. It's great fun to add special effects and background music to make the video interesting," the 13-year-old added.
"I also shoot scenic nature videos－for example, the cherry blossoms in spring－and upload them to Douyin to record the beautiful things in my life. At the beginning, my first video only had 10 'likes', but I was still happy because someone liked it. I have already made 95 videos and have about 2,000 followers."
Short videos－lasting less than 60 seconds－are gaining popularity because of the ease with which they can be uploaded. The content ranges from cooking and pets to dancing and exercise.
By February, Douyin was ranked third in China by user numbers. It has about 96 million regular users, and an annual growth rate of 76 percent, the highest in the country, according to a recent report from internet consultancy iiMedia Research Group.
Last year, the company said that 85 percent of its users were ages 24 and younger, with many born after 1995 and even in the 2000s.
"We are in an era of displaying individuality, and younger people are eager to show their personalities," said Sun Jin, head of the Cyberspace Governance Research Institute at Wuhan University in Hebei province.
"Young people today are willing to share traditionally 'private' things, including their lives, work and hobbies, with strangers via social media. Meanwhile, there are more who are curious about others' private lives. As a result, those sites link the two sides and produce a huge market."
Chen Rui, an associate professor at the Institute of Communication Psychology at Communication University of China, said, "Some videos on Douyin are about 15 seconds duration, so that gives people the illusion that they don't take up much time. The algorithm behind the site will send the viewers more related videos, so people become addicted unconsciously."
To prevent users from becoming addicted, the platform launched a new auto-lock function last month, so that it automatically locks itself after two hours of use per day.
"I am a disciplined person. I only spend 30 minutes watching videos on Douyin on school days, and it doesn't affect my study," said Wei, who is a class monitor and a top student.
"My parents encourage me to show myself on Douyin, but they tell me to be careful. Sometimes, I chat with my fans online, but I am cautious because they are strangers."
Li Duojiao, Wei's head teacher, said, "We call her the 'Douyin Princess' in class. Sometimes I see she has shared her videos on WeChat, and other students have given her 'likes'.
"Teenagers just need a stage to show off. Even though they may put themselves at potential risk, we never stop them from using the internet, which is irresistible and part of their lives. Someday, they will enter society, where they will encounter good and bad things. It is important that they are capable of telling right from wrong, and choosing suitable things for themselves."