73% Indians do not want children to have any access to social media till the age of 15 years
- • 82% want Government and schools to define and enforce a minimum age for children to have social media access
- • 59% not in favor of children between age 11-13 to have social media accounts, even with parental consent
3rd December 2019, New Delhi: Over the last few months, LocalCircles in its online communities, has received many inputs and complaints from citizens who are concerned about safety of children on social media apps. Many of these apps are looking at India for their next phase of growth and in finding numbers, many apps are compromising with integrity and safety. While Facebook is the first app which people usually download on a new phone, apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, Tik Tok, Bigo Live, etc. are getting very popular these days with many people, especially children between ages 10-15.
The exposure that these apps give children has been under constant scrutiny. While some believe that such apps give children a platform to express themselves, many others say that it provides easy access to content that is not suitable for children. LocalCircles conducted a survey to check what citizens feel about giving social media access to children. The survey received more than 23,000 responses from across India.
82% citizens in the first poll said that the Government and schools in India should define an age under which children cannot have a social media account. 14% thought otherwise.
82% want Government Schools to define and enforce a minimum age for children to have social media accounts
Media outlets regularly report how children get misled by stalkers and paedophiles on social media and how inappropriate conversations take place on many of these popular social media platforms. Many such apps have exposed children to adult and pornographic content, while cases of teenagers losing their lives while trying to create content for these apps have also been reported from different parts of the country.
The Central Governments, State Governments and schools will have to work together in regulating social media access by children. The next question asked what the minimum age in India should be for children to have social media (WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram etc.) account. 18% said it should be 13 years, 35% said it should be 15 years while 38% said it should be 18 years. 9% said that the schools/Government should not regulate social media access for children.
73% don’t want children to have any access to Social Media till age 15
Many of these apps are looking at India for their next phase of growth and in finding numbers, many apps are compromising with integrity. India has a large number of children between the age of 10 and 15, who are eager to get on to social media and even fake their age to sign up on many such apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok etc.
The last question asked if children in India should be allowed to have social media account between the age of 11-13 years, with parental consent. 59% disagreed with it while 37% agreed with it.
59% not in favour of children between 11-13 having social media accounts, even with parental consent
It is evident that the MHA, MHRD, MeitY, school boards and schools will have to work in tandem to control this menace and strict content regulation policies will have to be put into effect by the regulators. Suggestions from citizens included schools announcing that any student below the age of 15 years found to have a social media account will face the possibility of suspension from school.
According to citizens, platforms or apps need to be subject to strict accountability and enforcement standards with a mandatory requirement to have robust age verification mechanisms so under age children are unable to sign up. In addition, citizens want that platforms must be fully responsible for content and should be legally liable in case a child above 15 also is subject to inappropriate content.
LocalCircles has written to the Parliament Standing Committee on Information Technology demanding to raise the age for children in India to join social media to 15 years. It will also be taking up this matter with MHA, MeitY and MHRD so the above collective citizen recommendations can be evaluated for implementation.