If many South Asians think that we pamper our children beyond the point of good sense—especially if they are male and first born—they’re not going to be too surprised to read that 73 percent of children surveyed between the ages of 8 and 13 in tier-I and tier-II cities in India (ie: major Indian cities like Delhi and the next rung ones such as Chandigarh) have an account on facebook largely due to indulgent parents—82 percent of whom help them get onto the site .
Apparently, these parents do so by simply lying about their children’s ages while creating their accounts despite the fact that Facebook has a policy that disallows anyone under the age of 13 from doing so. This is almost double the 38 percent average of children on facebook who are under the age of twelve according to this survey (although it is unclear as to whether the survey is of US children or the site’s global cumulative).
This revelation is thanks to a survey conducted by industry body Assocham’s Social Development Foundation (ASDF) that generated a sample size of 4,200 parents of children between 8-13 years old in major metropolitan cities like Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Lucknow and Dehradun amongst others. While Facebook is the most popular site, others that children apparently are flocking to include Flickr, Google Plus, Pinterest, and Snapchat, which are all used by 85 percent of ten to 16-year-olds surveyed.
More troubling is the finding that Indian under-age children are more prone to using these sites by posting a photo or a video of themselves which makes them instantly vulnerable to sexual predators or cyber bullies.
In a blow to Indian dual-income Indian families where both parents work because of either progressive mothers, or because of necessity, the survey discovered that children of working parents were significantly more glued to Ipads or video games thanks to the relative lack of supervision compared to families where at least one parent was at home—although my own experience has been that Indian children, on average, are able to watch the most graphic movies on television like SAW2, or violent and mysogynstic movies (from the stables of Hollywood and Bollywood) without so much as a murmur of dissent from parents (who by and large are unaware of what their children are consuming on their smartphones or on TV or are unable to stop them).
So, it may be smart business as well as good social sense to read that Facebook is working on technology that will enable children under thirteen to cruise the site under parental control and allow them to place restrictions and locks on what the tykes can and cannot do. Of course, in an era where hackers start young it remains to be seen whether any of this will be effective if and when it does materialize.