As an adult, if your are struggling to get comfortable with online social networking, here is a shocker: 84% of Chennai's children with access to computers are on those sites. Surprisingly, this is a rung above Bangalore (83%), though Delhi and Mumbai leads with 86% of their children on social networking sites.
These are some of the findigs of a survey conducted by Tata Consultancy Service on 10,000 children in the age group of 12- 18 in 11 cities across India. Chennai equalled the national average of 65% when it comes to chatting online. Chatting is followed by sports or games (55%) and reading or studying (38%). Many also use it for listening to music (27%), watching TV (31%) and movies (8%).
Experts in different fields see both good news and bad news in the findings. The bad news is that several children are on social networking sites below the legally permissible age. Many sites allow children only above the age of 14 to register, but often kids fake their age to gain access.
"What parent's don't understand is that such children are vulnerable to cyber bullying and other online dangers. They no more have to walk into the internet parlours, they do it from their homes," says child psychologist Sangeetha Madhu.
Apart from child welfare activists, school teachers like Padmini Ravichandran, a language teacher for a private high school, says children who spend much of their time online find it hard to concentrate in class. "There have been studies abroad to prove that they are constantly distracted and have shorter attention spans. Also, we are seeing how their chat lingo' has been affecting their English," she says, pointing to classworks, where students had written words such as urs', luv', gr8' and lol'. "Sometimes we also get to see emoticons," she says.
With computers playing a vital role in school education, most schools face the problem from primary level. "It's unwise to ban the internet, as it's a good medium as it gets children involved. They need good guidance and monitoring," said C Sathish, senior principal, RMG group of schools.
Prevention of child abuse activist Vidya Reddy suggests an internet policy for students. "It's important for parents and teachers to discuss with students and bring out policies on the code of conduct for the internet," says Reddy.
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