Amid growing usage of social media among children and teenagers in India, parents believe that the minimum age for creating an account on such platforms should be increased to 15 years from 13 years at present. Factors such as excessive use of gadgets and their early exposure to children for online classes, along with other online school activities during the pandemic, have made kids as young as 9-year-olds addicted to social media, videos, and gaming.
A survey by community social media platform LocalCircles shows that five in 10 parents say their children in the 9-13 year age group are completely addicted to social media, videos and gaming on the internet. Owing to the increased screen time, seven in 10 parents want an increase in the minimum age for children using social media accounts to 15 years.
In addition, the parents want the government to draft appropriate regulations for social media platforms to ensure that no child account with or without consent can be created on social media platforms for those under the age of 15. Excessive use of internet for social media, gaming and videos is not only affecting their mental health but also taking these children down the wrong path and, in some cases, an irreversible one, the survey noted.
“Many children quote their age incorrectly to create a social media account and most sites fail to detect such activity and let them enrol without any authorisation from parents. In some cases, the parents themselves create the social media accounts of children by submitting the wrong age,” the survey report said.
The survey covered over 66,000 people located in 287 districts of the country.
In July last year, a report by National Commission for Protection of Child Right showed that 37.8% of children aged 10 have a Facebook account, while 24.3% have an account on Instagram.
Social media companies such as Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat also have features through which parents can track and control activities of their children on these platforms.
“There are now a whole bunch of controls on Instagram that you can use as a parent to monitor what your children are doing, with whom they are communicating with, how long they are online. We have put in controls so that adults can’t message kids they don’t know and we are putting in automated systems to prompt teens to sometimes take a break in between,” Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, said.
Other key findings of the survey by LocalCircles suggest that 71% of children between 13 and 17 years have access to smartphones for most part of their day (outside in-person school classes) and 55% between 9 and 13 years have the access.
“Teen social media addiction is characterised by the combination of an excessive media consumption, an increasing reliance on social media as a way to feel good, and an inability to stop or curb this behavior despite suffering losses in friendship, decreased physical social engagement, and a negative impact at school,” the survey quoted Paradigm, a US-based institution that treats mental health issues of teens and adolescents.
According to experts, the need for the hour is to deliberate on reducing screen time for children and that can be implemented with cooperation from teachers, parents, and the government.