NEW DELHI: Post the COVID lockdowns, the usages of devices like smartphone and laptop by kids have grown manyfolds across India and now the parents are feeling the brunt of the addiction. 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.
Fueled by the urge to watch videos, play their favourite online game or stay connected with friends, many children 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 after school 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.
LocalCircles conducted a national survey to understand the key issues parents 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.
As many as 61% urban Indian parents shared 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.
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.
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.
Notably, 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.