Variety

Millions of kids in India access the Net on their parents’ devices, says study

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on September 27, 2019 Published on September 27, 2019

No serious efforts have been taken by either the government or social media platforms to ensure that kids are not exposed to inappropriate content, say experts

Experts raise concern over exposing kids to predators, phishing and bullying

Youtube’s recent fine of $170 million in the US for illegally collecting personal information of children without parental consent should ring alarm bells back in India. Similar violations may be going unnoticed here as millions of kids use Internet on their parents’ devices.

A new study conducted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) states 66 million Internet users in the country are in the age bracket of 5 to 11 years and they are viewing it on the devices of family members.

In today's age when adults are finding it hard to understand the extent of physical, mental, financial risk they are exposing themselves to, kids need special treatment as they are more vulnerable and not capable of making decisions for themselves.

This could be exposing young children to predators, bullying, phishing, or even malware attacks, experts feel.

“India does not have clear laws equivalent to COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) but adhoc executive rulings, court cases and discussions. We don't have formal ways of ensuring responsible behaviour,” said Mishi Choudhary, technology lawyer and online civil liberties activist.

Social networks Tiktok was recently pulled up by the Indian government for allowing ‘inappropriate content’ being available on the platform. A BusinessLine investigation later revealed that Tiktok was not alone. Many other social media platforms had similar, if not more inappropriate, content easily accessible without any restrictions or age verification.

Moreover, no serious efforts have been taken by either the government or the social media platforms to ensure that kids are not exposed to ‘inappropriate content’ or if they are collecting any private information about the kids.

“Several apps have children-directed content, targeted ads are regularly served on these platforms to kids younger than 13 years of age. There needs to be clear requirement for verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information and clear information about parental control,” Choudhary said.

Parents and kids are equally required to be reminded that online actions have consequences.

“Internet today is a dangerous place for children. Parents should ensure that all access is supervised till the child in well into their teens and demonstrate safe practices online,” said Sunil Abraham, Executive Director at the Centre for Internet and Society.

Published on September 27, 2019
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