Hyderabad: India’s internet penetration has risen to record heights in an unusual segment of the population and it is not a delightful development. Of the 451 million monthly active users in India, 66 million are in the age bracket of five to 11 years, who access internet on devices of family members, an IAMAI report titled, ‘India Internet 2019’ said.
Anecdotally, it is common knowledge that young children these days are addicted to games available on smart phones. The situation – of their increasing usage of digital screens – has worsened with the proliferation of ‘budget’ smartphones in the country. Bad news for parents who have been concerned about games, these children are now also using internet on the phone.
With the proliferation of budget smartphones, India, which is only behind China in terms of active internet userbase at end of March, 2019, also saw a considerable rise in internet penetration. But, these budget smartphones, which can also be used to access internet, are often seen in hands of kids, who are not only playing games but accessing the internet, without parental guidance or safety measures in place.
The report, brought out by the industry body, Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), has confirmed that kids are not only using such devices to play games but also to access the internet.
The report says, ominously for Indian parents, “there is still much headroom for growth”, as the internet penetration level is currently only at 36 per cent and can only head north, rapidly. Parents will need to step up to the challenge as access to internet, which has its positive sides in terms of interactive learning and knowledge acquisition, also opens and exposes young children to various categories of digital threats.
According to cyber security experts, the most common threat, if one excludes the threat of digital data breaches, would be that the kids would be interacting with strangers, and may become victims of cyber bullying. Worse, paedophiles use digital mediums to interact with kids in large numbers.
Recently, Google and US FTC had reached a $170 million settlement over alleged YouTube violations of kids’ privacy.
The report also says that female internet users’ population is about half of the 258 million male internet users. The bias is more evident in rural India. Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Delhi have a higher proportion of female internet users compared to other states, it said....