by Li Huizi, Liu Tong and Li Yifan
BEIJING, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Although mobile phones, portable computers and similar devices have served to bring together people who would otherwise lose touch with each other, they have also created a digital divide between young people and their older relatives, causing squabbles and discontent.
The upcoming Seniors' Day holiday, which falls on Oct. 23 this year, has led netizens and scholars to renew calls for valuing and respecting the elderly, particularly in a day and age when many young people have difficulty prying themselves away from their smartphones and other devices.
Seniors' Day, also known as the Double Ninth Festival because of its occurrence on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, is traditionally a day for visiting one's elders and paying respect to them.
However, elderly people have increasingly complained that their children fail to pay enough attention to them, even when they do manage to make an actual visit.
"Every time we go to see my parents, we play with our smartphones, checking messages and playing games, even when my daughter wants to play. I regret ignoring my parents," wrote netizen "windsail" on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging site.
Although modern telecommunication devices can be used to shorten the distance between family members, excessive reliance can lead to a failure to cater to parents' most basic need -- to be accompanied and talked to, according to Professor Yu Jianrong, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Although technology has shortened the physical distance between the younger and older generations, their psychological distance is still "the greatest distance in the world," according to Yu.
Yu launched an online campaign earlier this month encouraging netizens to visit their parents and take pictures with them, posting a photo of himself with his own mother in his hometown in central China's Hunan Province.
The campaign has attracted a great deal of attention, with many netizens admitting that they have not visited or taken pictures with their parents in a long time.
"People are becoming increasingly aware of filial piety," Yu said, adding that people should show greater care for their parents' emotions and feelings.
"Filial respect is essential for social harmony and can provide an approach for solving social problems," Yu said.
China had about 185 million people above the age of 60 as of the end of last year. The figure is expected to surge to 221 million by 2015, including 51 million "empty nesters," or elderly people whose children no longer live with them.
Most "empty nesters" live in rural areas, with their children migrating to cities to seek work. Many migrant workers do not see their parents for years after leaving their hometowns.