New Delhi, 18 February: One in every three adolescents who were exposed to the internet has gone through negative experiences of some kind or the other, a recent study conducted by CRY – Child Rights and You have revealed.
Findings of the study further suggest that a staggering 75 per cent among the adolescent users have no clear knowledge of the minimum age required for creating any Social Media (SM) accounts, and as many as two among every five users are open to accepting requests from friends of friends and/or complete strangers, thus becoming more vulnerable to online threats and hazards.
In a bid to assess the impact of internet and to study the pattern of its usage among adolescents of Delhi and NCR, and also to understand the benefits and risks involved, CRY – Child Rights and You, a 40-year-oldIndian non-profit organization has recently conducted an exploratory study named ‘Online Safety and Internet Addiction: A Study Conducted Amongst Adolescents in Delhi-NCR’. Findings of the study have revealed important trends associated with internet usage, safety and addiction among adolescents.
The study that was conducted among 630 adolescents across eight schools in Delhi-NCR within the age group of 13 to 18 years showed that adolescents had considerably easy access to the Internet, with 93 per cent of the respondents accessing the internet at their residence. It also revealed that 60 per cent of the boys and 40 per cent of the girls among the respondents owned their own device. Almost half of the respondents reportedly used two or more devices to access the Internet.
Explaining the objective behind the study, Soha Moitra, the Regional Director of CRY (North) said, “Online safety emerges as an important protection aspect to the well-being of children and youth. While CRY recognises that the internet is a vital medium for participation and expression of children, it is the duty of parents, communities, the state, and the society at large to ensure that children are both protected and empowered to protect themselves from online addiction and threats. This was the premise of undertaking the study, where we intended to understand children’s knowledge, practices and lived experiences of the online world.”
The study further highlighted that80 per cent of the boys and 59 per cent of the girls had social media accounts, but nearly three-fourths of them across the gender divide had no proper knowledge of minimum age for creating social media accounts.
According to Soha Moitra, the extensive exposure of under-age users to the cyber-space raises a serious concern. “In the Indian context, the usage of internet among the masses (adults and children) has grown exponentially over the last decade. While this growth is fantastic since it opens up massive avenues of opportunities for people, concerns over online safety continue to linger and manifest themselves in increasingly sophisticated ways,” she said.
Talking about the way forward, Soha said that the report demonstrates that the threats of various internet-harms are undisputable. There is a lot of work to be done to recognise, understand and address them adequately at all levels of family, community and the state.
“The objective of ensuring online safety of children can be achieved through stringent policies and legal provisions addressing the issues of empowerment and knowledge enhancement of children and communities, and strengthening the monitoring and redressal system in order to ensure that the online world is an enabling and protective environment for people, especially children”, she concluded.
Some Trends as Revealed by the Study
- 40 per cent of the respondents used the Internet as a studying-aid, while 38 per cent of them used it as a resource for extra-curricular activities.
- 76 per cent of the respondents used the internet for less than two hours per day. Eight per cent of the respondents said that they accessed the Internet for more than four hours a day.
- 80 per cent of the boys and 59 per cent of the girls had social media accounts. 31 per cent of the users had more than two accounts.
- Three in every five adolescents (63 per cent) of the respondents said that they accepted friendship/connect request only from people they knew, while the rest said they accepted requests from friends of friends and strangers.
- According to the study, home is the place where maximum access to the internet happens. More than 93 per cent of the respondents said that they accessed the internet from their residence.
- One is every three adolescent users reported going through negative experience on the internet, while around 10 per cent of them disclosed being subjected to cyber-bullying.
- Only one in every two adolescents reported cyber-bullying incidents. It is also noteworthy that cyber-bullying was seen less among adolescents who did not have social media accounts and who did have knowledge about NCERT guidelines for Internet Safety. However, they experienced it due to some or other reason.
- Only 35per cent of the respondents had knowledge about NCERT Internet Safety Guidelines.
- Nearly 90 per cent of respondents knew the minimum age for buying SIM cards.
- Findings also suggest that maximum number of respondents accessed the internet from their parent’s devices.
- According to the study, internet addiction tended to increase with age and was greater amongst those adolescents who had their own room at home, had their own mobile devices, and did have both working parents.
- The study suggests that 48 per cent of the respondents displayed any level of addiction to the internet, while, severe internet addiction was observed in only 1 per cent of the respondents, mainly among boys. Among the internet-addicted, majority of them (70 per cent) were adolescents.
- The study also says around 10 per cent of adolescents reported being victims of hacking of profile/misuse of the account, but this decreased sharply with age. One in four adolescents also reported seeing a morphed image or video, and only 50 per cent of them reported the incident.