61% urban Indian parents say their children are addicted to social media, OTT & online gaming platforms; 1 in 3 say addiction is making them aggressive, lethargic or depressed
- ● 73% urban Indian parents want the data protection law to ensure mandatory parental consent is sought for children under 18 when they join social media, OTT/video and online gaming platforms
September 22, 2023, New Delhi: Post the COVID lockdowns, many urban Indian homes with school going children are experiencing a sense of disharmony, and this sentiment is due to increased access to gadgets that children are seeking to play games, watch videos and stay connected with their friends with the parents reluctantly giving them limited access or denying it.
While the back-to-school post COVID-Omicron since early 2022 has led to the school education happening again in offline mode, the usage of internet by children for leisurely activities has only increased. Fueled by this urge to watch videos, play their favourite online game or stay connected with friends, many children in urban India are demanding either full time or part time gadget access when at home. While the school activities require some use of the internet and some children are still taking afterschool classes online, a lot of time is being spent by children listening to music, watching videos, staying in touch with their friends and playing online games. Gadget addiction by children between ages 9-18 has become the new reality. The addiction, in some children is leading to impatience and aggression, lack of concentration, memory issues, headache, eye and back problems, stress, anxiety, communication issues, lethargy and even depression.
In many cases, the parents have reported on LocalCircles about not even knowing the various social media, video and online gaming apps their children are using. The Government of India is in the process of operationalizing the new Digital Private Data Protection Law which mandates parental consent being sought for apps that are used by children under the age of 18. Platforms however seem to be struggling about how to implement such age gating and are trying to work with the Government.
Given the sheer amount of inputs and concerns received on LocalCircles on this issue from parents and grandparents across India, LocalCircles conducted a national survey to understand the key issues they are facing with their children spending excessive time on social media, OTT and online gaming platforms as well as understand what they feel about parental consent for accessing such platforms. The survey received over 46,000 responses from urban Indian parents located in 296 districts of India. 62% respondents were men while 38% respondents were women. 47% respondents were from tier 1, 35% from tier 2 and 18% respondents were from tier 3 and 4 districts.
61% urban Indian parents of children between ages 9-17 shared that their children spend an average of 3 hours or more each day on social media, videos/OTT and online games
As all children don’t spend the same time on the internet, the first survey question sought to know from citizens “How much average time per day are children between ages 9-17 in your family spending on social media, videos/OTT and online games on the internet?” This query received 11,507 responses with 61% urban Indian parents of children between 9-17 sharing that their children spend an average of 3 hours or more each day on social media, videos/OTT and online games. The data shows 39% of respondents shared that their wards spend 1-3 hours on their gadgets each day; 46% stated it was 3-6 hours daily and 15% shared that their wards spend more than 6 hours on social media, videos/OTT and online games. Not a single respondent denied that their children/ wards did not spend time on social media or online entertainment.
37% of parents surveyed shared their children spent most time watching videos/OTT; 35% indicated that their children spent most time on social media and 33% indicated that their children are into online gaming
Children use the internet for entertainment besides studying. The survey next sought to know what engages the children between ages 9-17 the most when using various online platforms. Some among the 12,017 respondents to this query selected more than one option with the majority indicating that their children are addicted to social media, videos or online gaming and in some cases one or more such mediums. The data shows that 37% of Indian parents shared that their children spent most time watching videos/OTT (YouTube, Prime Video, Netflix, Hotstar, etc.); 35% of respondents indicated that their children spent most time on social media (Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Be Real, etc.); 33% of respondents indicated that their children are into online gaming (Minecraft, PUBG, Fortnight, Among US, FIFA, Fantasy Sports, etc.); 10% of respondents indicated “other activities online”; and 2% were not sure. Among the respondents 8% were happy that their children are “luckily not addicted to any of the above” social media platforms, online games or entertainment.
39% respondents indicated that their children showed signs of “aggression” followed by 37% indicating that they were “impatient”; 27% stated that they are “lethargic”; 25% described them as “hyperactive”
Seeking to understand the level of negative impact on social behavior and/or mental health of children, the survey then asked “What all emotional or mental impact of social media, videos/OTT and online games do you see on your children between the ages 9-17 years?” Some among the 11,697 respondents indicated more than one impact. The largest group of 39% indicated “aggression” followed by 37% indicating “impatient”; 27% stated that they are “lethargic”; 25% described them as “hyperactive”; 22% sharing that they are “depressed”; and 6% of respondents stating that there are other impacts. On the positive side, 10% of the parents described their children as being “more social” and 8% indicated that they are “happier” while 2% stated none of the above applied to their children aged 9-17 years.
73% of respondents stress parental consent for children under 18 years should be “absolutely” necessary for signing up on social media, OTT and online gaming platforms
A major objective of the Digital Private Data Protection Law, which mandates parental consent being sought for apps that are used by children under the age of 18, the survey sought to know “Should India operationalize on priority the mandatory parental consent for children under 18 to join social media, OTT/video and online gaming platforms?” The query received 11,798 responses with 73% stressing “yes, absolutely”; 13% however stated “no, the minimum age to join without consent should be 15 years”; 9% of respondents felt “no, the minimum age to join without consent should be retained at 13”; and 5% of the respondents gave no clear response choosing “can’t say”.
In summary, the survey once again brings to fore that young children between 9-17 years are increasingly becoming hooked to social media, online gaming and video/OTT platforms. As the survey shows, 61% urban Indian parents shared that their children spend an average of 3 hours or more each day on social media, videos/OTT or playing online games. In terms of what they watch, 37% of parents surveyed shared that their children spent most time watching video/OTT; 35% indicated that their children spent most time on social media and 33% indicated that their children are into online gaming. What is more worrying for parents is that their children/ wards have become more aggressive, impatient, depressed and/or lethargic. There are also parents who described their wards as having become hyperactive. As parents struggle with managing access of children to social media, OTT and online games, the survey finds that 73% parents want that their consent be mandatory if their children under the age 18 are opening an account on any of the platforms in this category. What this means is that platforms will be required to deploy more checks and balances to know when a child is creating an account and ensuring that the right processes are deployed so the child’s parents give their consent.
LocalCircles will share the findings of this survey with key stakeholders including Ministries of Electronics & Information Technology, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and Ministry of Women & Child Development as well as their respective parliamentary such that the pulse of the parents is considered as DPDP and other laws related to this subject are implemented to ensure healthy and safe internet access for children in India.
The survey received over 46,000 responses from urban Indian parents located in 296 districts of India. 62% respondents were men while 38% respondents were women. 47% respondents were from tier 1, 35% from tier 2 and 18% respondents were from tier 3 and 4 districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.