Telecom subscribers in India, as per the latest TRAI report, crossed 121-crore mark by June end. The overall mobile subscriber base in the country grew to 118.6 crore. This is good in a way as it will speed up the campaign for Digital India, which is one of most ambitious projects in the world, seeking to digitally connect all of the country’s villages and gram panchayats by broadband internet, promote e-governance and transform India into a connected knowledge economy. However, it will take some time before the connectivity issue is resolved and the general public becomes technically aware and get comfortable with the technology.
Reports suggest that internet is accessible to more than 134 million Indian children this year. Interestingly, more than 43 per cent school children use mobile as the medium to access internet, followed by laptop, desktop and tablets. According to the WebWise report by Telenor, about 98.8 per cent school-going children access internet in urban areas while 49.5 per cent of them do it from home. Facebook, the report said, is the most used platform by school going students, followed by WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram. Smartphones undoubtedly bring benefits. With the devices, children gain access to powerful apps, including education tools for studying, chat apps for connecting with friends and the wealth of information on the web. But they also are one step closer to distracting games, sexting apps and social media apps where online bullies are on the prowl.
The easy access to the Internet and smartphones, and lack of knowledge among parents and children about the safeguards against different types of cyber threats put these whizkids in the danger zone. A study conducted by Boston Consulting Group had suggested that more than 35 per cent children in India have experienced their account being hacked while 15.74 per cent shared that they have received inappropriate messages. About 15 per cent complained of being bullied online whereas 10.41 per cent faced humiliation through picture/video that were uploaded on Internet, the report pointed out.
Yet another research has warned that spending too much time on smartphones, tablets and other devices may delay speech development in toddlers. A total of 894 children between ages six months and two years participated in a practice-based research network in Toronto between 2011 and 2015. Researchers found that the more handheld screen time a child’s parent reported, the more likely the child was to have delays in expressive speech.
Again, if you take away smartphones from children, many still will have access to technology tools through devices like computers and tablets. The only and worrying difference with a smartphone is that it is with a child everywhere, including outside of parental supervision.
Mobile phone dependence among children, accroding to experts, have increased drastically, with its effects now seen to be equivalent to substance abuse. A boy from a Haryana district, for example, held a mobile phone for the first time when he was still an infant. His mother gave it to him as a distraction so that he would eat easily when she fed him. When he turned four, the parents gifted him “his favourite toy” of his own. He always preferred the mobile over outdoor games. At nine, the boy was taken to hospital for cutting himself with a knife when deprived of the phone.
The moral of the story is that the elders at home need to change their lifestyle. Positive parenting is the only way out. Allow your kids to meet new children. Help them develop new hobbies. Encourage them to play outdoor games. Have gadget-free time at home. Have at least a meal together. Be a part of Digital India. But don’t let technology rule you or your family members.