61 percent of Indians observed their children, aged nine to 17, spend an average of 3 hours or more per day on social media. Image: ShutterstockT
he Covid-19 pandemic brought in its wake several social issues, one of them being an addiction to gadgets, social media, and over-the-top (OTT) platforms among children and adults alike. As the pandemic waned, since early 2022 there has been a resurgence in offline education and learning activities. However, use of the internet for recreational purposes among children has continued to grow, driven by the desire to listen to music, watch videos, play online games, and stay connected with friends. School-related activities also necessitate some internet usage.
As per a report by LocalCircles, a social media platform and pollster focusing on governance, public and consumer interest issues, this increased usage among children is manifesting in symptoms such as impatience, aggression, reduced concentration, memory problems, headaches, eye and back issues, stress, anxiety, communication difficulties, lethargy, and, in some cases, even depression.
The platform surveyed inputs from 46,000 urban parents and grandparents from 296 Indian districts regarding the primary challenges they encounter while dealing with children's extensive use of social media, OTT services, and online gaming platforms. It also sought to gain insights into their perspectives on the necessity of parental consent for accessing these platforms.
According to the survey results, 61 percent of Indians observed their children, aged nine to 17, spending an average of 3 hours or more per day on social media, video/OTT platforms, and online gaming. Among the respondents, 39 percent mentioned that their children spend 1-3 hours using electronic devices daily, while 15 percent reported that their children spend more than 6 hours on online activities. Interestingly, no respondent indicated that their children or wards abstain from spending time on social media or engaging in online entertainment.Also read: More young people turning to local TV networks than to social media to get news
The survey found that a significant portion of parents believe their children have developed addictions to these online activities. The data shows that 37 percent of Indian parents feel their children spend time primarily watching videos/OTT content (such as YouTube, Prime Video, Netflix, Hotstar, etc), while 35 percent indicated their children are most engaged with social media platforms (like Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, BeReal, etc). Thirty-three percent of respondents feel their children are deeply involved in online gaming, with games such as Minecraft, PUBG, Fortnite, Among Us, FIFA, Fantasy Sports, etc. Interestingly, 8 percent of respondents expressed satisfaction that their children have not developed an addiction to any social media, OTT platform, or online gaming activities.Also read: Is enthusiasm for Threads already starting to wane?
Excessive engagement on social media can have adverse effects on the social behaviour and mental wellbeing of children. The findings reveal that 39 percent of parents have noticed an increase in “aggression” in their children; 37 percent have observed “impatience”, 27 percent have noted “lethargy”, 25 percent have described their children as “hyperactive”, and 22 percent have expressed concerns about “depression”. On a more positive note, 10 percent of parents have characterised their children as “more social”, while 8 percent have reported that their children appear “happier”.
This August, the Rajya Sabha passed the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2023, which aims to regulate the processing of digital personal data while acknowledging both individuals’ rights to safeguard their personal information and the legitimate purposes for processing such data. A significant provision of this Bill mandates the requirement of parental consent for applications used by individuals under the age of 18.
In the survey, parents were asked whether India should implement compulsory parental consent for children under 18 to access social media, OTT/video platforms, and online gaming platforms, and the responses indicated strong support for this measure, with 73 percent of parents agreeing. This consensus suggests that there is a need for platforms to implement additional safeguards and mechanisms to identify when a child is creating an account and ensure that appropriate processes are in place to obtain parental consent.