Under-13 kids using social networking sites okay? [Parenting] [Times of India]
(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) While the minimum age for signing up on sites like Facebook and Google Plus is 13, a survey says that nearly 73% kids below 13 in tier-II cities are also active online
Whether or not kids should be given access to the internet at a young age has always been a debatable issue, and a recent survey conducted by ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India), revealed that nearly 73% children aged between 8 and 13 in tier-II cities are using Facebook and social networking sites. The survey also said that almost 82% parents helped their kids create their online profile. DS Rawat, secretary-general, ASSOCHAM, says, "Children are gaining access to social networking sites at a very young age. Chances are that it could expose them to content, people or situations that are beyond their understanding."
Most social networking sites, including Facebook and Google Plus, have 13 as the minimum age to sign up for an account. So, we decided to ask parents of kids in the 8-13 age group in the city if they are okay with their kids using social networking sites. Some say they shouldn't have helped their kid create an online account once the latter gets addicted to it, others believe that there are certain aspects - like staying connected with the school's online news feeds or sending e-invites to friends - that make it okay for their child to sign up on social networking sites.
School's E-activities to E-invites, everything's online
Whether it's their school's online registration in various competitions or for sending e-invites of parties to friends, parents say nowadays all activities happen online and they have no option but to introduce their kids to the virtual world. Pooja, a homemaker and mother of a 13-year-old daughter, says, "These days, kids start using gadgets from a very early age. And by the time they are adolescents, they are already active on the virtual world. A few months back, my daughter's summer camp association had put up an online contest on their FB page. Obviously, you can't participate in it unless you have an online profile. So, I helped my daughter to sign up on Facebook a year back."
However, she adds, "This has resulted in my daughter getting addicted to social media. I do keep a tab on her online activities, but she insists on spending one-two hours online to chat with friends and play online games."
Ashutosh Pandey*, a businessman and father of a 12-year-old son, says, "I'm aware of the cons of overexposure to social media. In fact, I was totally against my son opening an FB account. But all his friends had one and he was the only one left without the access to FB in his group. So, he kept on pestering me to help him sign up on Facebook. Finally, I gave in, but only on one condition that he will not change the password set by me. I am amazed to see the number of e-invites he gets for birthday parties and other get-togethers. This is a truly hi-tech generation and if done with proper monitoring, online accounts can be very helpful."
Shinjini, a homemaker and mother of a 14-year-old, says, "Even if we don't help our kids with their online accounts, won't the children eventually do it on their own? Moreover, I feel that the internet is a powerhouse of knowledge. If used in the right way, it helps kids enhance their knowledge. I'm also on my son's Facebook friend list, so I know what he is up to. He does not share his password with me and that is fine. After all, he also needs some privacy."
Kids are already so advanced that it doesn't really matter
Jayshree, an entrepreneur and mother of a 14-year-old daughter, says, "My daughter had an account even before we could realise it. I came to know about it only when she had sent a friend request to one of her cousins. So, I think kids are already so advanced that it doesn't really matter if parents help them in creating an online account or not. Not just that, my daughter also has accounts on Twitter, Google Plus and Instagram." Priyanka, Jayshree's daughter, adds, "My mom and dad are extremely tied up in their professional lives and my sister is just six."
What the law says
While there are no laws prohibiting minors from using the internet, in cases involving kids, their parents will be held responsible for any untoward incident. Advocate Amit K Upadhyay informs, "Although, cyber laws don't extensively cover the topic of child abuse on the internet, in certain cases where an individual gains undue advantage and/or causes defamation or loss to another due to false information or documentation provided by the former, the accused can be held under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) like 420 and 468. And in such cases if the accused is a minor but has been helped by an adult (here, parents) then definitely the latter will be held guilty."
If monitored, the net is safe: Parents
"I hardly have anyone to interact with once I am back from school. The internet has definitely come to my rescue. I can chat with my friends, play games and share photographs with them," Priyanka adds.
However, Tejas Gupta, a marketing professional and father of two teenage children, doesn't agree on this. He says, "Initially, I also thought that it was okay for my kids to make their online accounts and that it will help them become more tech-savvy. So, I assisted them in creating their profiles. But I was so wrong. Soon my sons became addicted to the online world. My elder son, who is 15, started spending hours together playing online games and chatting with friends. But the day I found out that he is befriending unknown people online, that I decided to take stern action. I asked him to delete his account and have told him that he can only use social networking sites once he is mature enough. I have also taken back his smartphone. This is the time for them to study and indulge in more physical activities. Sitting at one place and surfing the net, that might contain stuff beyond their understanding, is not just a threat to their safety but will also make them drift away from reality."
Can't allow kids to access adult content
Geetika, an entrepreneur and mother of a 10-year-old son, says, "Sometimes, I do think that I shouldn't have introduced my child to the social media at such an early age. I have noticed certain changes in his personality ever since he became active online - like the way he talks or carries himself. Having said that, I would also like to clarify that it is very difficult to keep kids away from this online phenomenon. If I had not helped him make an account, he would have managed to do it on the sly. At least this way, he will not try to conceal things from us and I will know what he is up to." Anurag, a 14-year-old student, adds, "I am the luckiest one in my group. My parents volunteered and helped me create my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I usually spend a lot of time playing games online and since I love photography, I also share my pictures on Instagram. Thank God, my parents think that its 'normal' for children of my age to use social media, otherwise I would have been bored to death during the summer vacations."
Kashika Jain*, another homemaker and mother of an 11-year-old son, shares her reason to help her son sign up for an FB account. She tells us, "My son, Dhruv, had met with an accident in January and was on bed rest for a month. Since he could not go out to play with his friends, he kept on asking me to allow him to play games online. We obviously had to fake his age to create his account. Now he is fit and can easily go out and play, but he is addicted to online games like Farmville and Candy Crush. I realize that I shouldn't have helped him create an account."
(* Names changed on request)
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