Children in digital era: The dark side of Internet world

AUTHOR- Tanya Sinha, Thakur Ramnarayan College of Law, Mumbai University.

“It is easier to shape a child than to repair an adult.”


Digitalization is referred as the incorporation of digital technologies in everyday life. In the current age, each and every part of our daily life is now linked to technology. With better facilities and luxuries, our life has become a lot better and simple. Digitalization is not just limited to one particular sector. Different industries and societies are building new technologies as per their requirements. Technology has brought a big change in how we used to accomplish our day to day tasks in earlier days. It has affected overall economy, culture as well as living standards. As every advancement brings its share of pros and cons, same is the case with digitalization. Children’s use of digital technology has increased rapidly over the past decade, raising important questions around how time spent on digitally-mediated activities may affect children in positive or negative ways. . Clearly, digital technology offers many potential benefits to children, allowing them to connect with peers or access educational resources or entertainment .At the same time, there are legitimate concerns around who children interact with online Research, if they experience cyber-bullying or access age appropriate content, or whether screen-based communication may jeopardize their social development or well-being. Even though adults also use digital technology to a great extent, concerns tend to centre on children’s use because of the many social, biological, cognitive, and psychological changes that characterize this life period. Children go through critical developmental stages, such as identity formation and building positive friendships while immersed in the digital age. Children today are interacting more with their phone than with each other, which may cause them to miss out on important social experiences. Others say that children still interact with one another as much as before and that the interactions are of similar quality; it is the venues for social interaction that have changed, becoming digital.

Affects the well being of the children:

In the paper, titled “How healthy behaviour supports children’s well-being,” the PHE, a new executive agency of the UK’s Department of Health, says too much screen time is having a negative effect on children by reducing self-worth, self-esteem and levels of self-reported happiness.

Children who spend too long sitting in front of a screen can also experience more emotional distress, anxiety and depression, they add.

“There are many complex factors that affect a child’s well-being such as the wider environment they live in and their social, financial and family circumstances, but there are also some very simple things we can all do every day with our children to help improve their health and well-being.”

The Nat Cen report analyzed data from a number of large studies, such as the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), Understanding Society (U Soc), and the Health Survey for England (HSE), and tested a wide range of factors – spanning most aspects of life – as potential predictors of subjective well-being.[1]

It found, among other things, that:

  • Levels of well-being vary across the life course, tending to fall a little in the mid-teenage years, then again at midlife, and finally among the oldest old.

  • Excessive computer gaming becomes more common as children grow into young people, and is associated with lower levels of well-being.

  • Those children who, on a school day, spent 4 hours or more on computer gaming tended to have lower well-being than peers who spent less time doing this.

  • The highest well-being was reported by children who spent less than an hour a day playing computer games.

  • Home dynamics also matters, especially “things such as feeling supported and sharing meals together as a family.”[2]

Affects the Physical health of children:

As children spend more time in front of computer monitors, they typically spend less time in physical activities.

The sedentary lifestyle associated with computer usage can be a prime risk factor for obesity, according to clinical psychologist Kaleyvani Geeseeny Sawmy, author of "The Impact of Internet Use on Children/Adolescents." Furthermore, computer use is linked to both repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel and eye strain. For some children, the rapidly flashing images of certain websites and games can trigger epileptic seizures, according to authors of "The Impact of Home Computer Use on Children’s Activities and Development," published by Princeton University.

Cognitive development:

Children with easy access to the Internet may become less able to separate fact from fiction. The Internet has no filter and no peer review, so anyone can publish anything they want.

Educators also worry that the informal communication common to chat rooms has carried over into academic settings. Students facing challenging homework tasks and essays are becoming more likely to plagiarize from Internet sources. The multitasking that many children engage in while online reduces attention span, making intense concentration on a single task more difficult.

Depression and isolation:

Every advancement of technology has resulted in creative destruction. Television has adversely impacted the minds of children. The San Diego State study found that, on average, children who spent more time behind a screen (playing video games, using social media, etc.) were less happy than those who spent more time doing non-screen activities, like playing sports or socializing face-to-face.

Moreover, a growing body of research has confirmed a correlation between depression and digital media in children.[3]

Common Symptoms of Depression in Children:

§ Abrupt changes in sleep patterns

A sudden inability to fall asleep (or frequently waking up in the middle of the night) may be a symptom of depression. However, sleeping too much could be an issue as well.

§ Social isolation

Everyone needs a little alone time, but if a child is spending less time with their friends, or suddenly not wanting to participate in their favourite activities (sports, dance practice, etc.), it may signal a bigger problem.

§ Drastic personality changes

When you see a child showing traits like mood swings, irritation, keeping secrets , throwing off tantrums than there might be something that is not letting that child to progress.

§ Changes in appetite

Occasionally skipping breakfast when rushing to school may not be a cause for concern, but consistently not finishing meals probably is.

Same goes for a sudden increase in appetite. While children go through growth spurts that can require eating more than usual, consistent overeating may be a symptom of depression as well.

Cybercrimes and children:

Most cybercrime is an attack on information about individuals, corporations, or governments take place on the personal or corporate virtual body which is given on internet. Children are the most vulnerable sections of society and are easily exploited in the cyber world due to lack of majority level in them. These days it is seen that even sexual exploitation of the children has started online. The offenders chat online with young children by wrongly stating/representing their age and lure them towards sex. With these latest technologies it has become very easy for the criminal to contact children. Children are easily exploited by online criminals not only because of their age and majority but also as they heavily rely on networking sites for social interaction. Offenders use false identities in chat room to lure victims for personal meetings. This leads to child abuse and exploitation such as trafficking and sex tourism. Some of people including children misuse technology knowingly or unknowingly for illegal purposes and for their feelings, misconduct, harass, threat, stalking, damage others through internet using cell phones, laptops, computers, pen drives, etc.

“Almost every school-going child has access to social media these days, but shockingly hardly any of them know about the privacy settings on their profiles. With details of their personal lives going public, they make themselves vulnerable to all sorts of cyber harassment.”

Cybercrime which impact children as a victim should be handled seriously. By using computer, attacks are done by cyber terrorism such as spam, virus, credit card fraud, trafficking in pornography, posting obscene photograph, sending fake e-mails to get personal information, misusing personal information, digital piracy, money laundering, and counterfeiting, altering data for either profit or political objectives, violating privacy by stealing identity.

Children often avoid telling their parents or anyone about this mistake as they are afraid or there is a threat which causes further more trouble.[4]

§ Types of cybercrimes against children:

There are certain offences which affects the personality of a child can be defined as:

Cyber-Stalking: It means expressed or implied a physical threat that creates fear through the use to computer technology such as internet, e-mail, phones, text messages, webcam, websites or videos.

Dissemination of Obscene Material: It includes Indecent exposure/ Pornography (basically child pornography), hosting of web site containing these prohibited materials. These obscene matters may cause harm to the mind of the adolescent and tend to deprave or corrupt their mind.

Dissemination of Obscene Material: It includes Indecent exposure/ Pornography (basically child pornography), hosting of web site containing these prohibited materials. These obscene matters may cause harm to the mind of the adolescent and tend to deprave or corrupt their mind.[5]

§ Cyber laws in India governing cybercrimes against children:

1. Obscenity: Sections 67, 67A and 67B of the Information Technology Act prescribe punishment for publishing or transmitting, in electronic form: (i) obscene material; (ii) material containing sexually explicit act, etc.; and (iii) material depicting children in sexually explicit act, etc. respectively. The punishment prescribed for an offence under section 67 of the IT Act is, on the first conviction, imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 3 (three) years, to be accompanied by a fine which may extend to Rs. 5,00,000 (Rupees five lac), and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction, imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 5 (five) years, to be accompanied by a fine which may extend to Rs. 10,00,000 (Rupees ten lac).

Indian Penal Code-The provisions of sections 292 and 294 of the IPC would also be applicable for offences of the nature described under sections 67, 67A and 67B of the IT Act. Section 292 of the IPC provides that any person who, inter alia, sells, distributes, publicly exhibits or in any manner puts into circulation or has in his possession any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, representation or figure or any other obscene object whatsoever shall be punishable on a first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 2 (two) years, and with fine which may extend to Rs. 2,000 (Rupees two thousand) and, in the event of a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 5 (five) years, to be accompanied by a fine which may extend to Rs. 5,000 (Rupees five thousand).[6]

§ Tips for parents to prevent children from cyber abuse:

1. Always be vigilant and see what your children are doing online

2. Discuss the risks with your children and tell them ways to be safe online

3. Place the computer in your living room rather in child’s bedroom

4. Use Parental Control Software. It filters the contents that can be viewed online and can restrict download of applications that you don’t want to be viewed by your children.

5. You can restrict usage time of internet i.e. the number of hours internet can be accessed

6. Make sure your children do not post personal details like their contact numbers, address, photographs, school address etc.

7. Make sure that you know the friends of your children with whom your child is chatting/interacting on web and restrict their chatting with stranger.

Things that can improve child’s life even in this digitalized era:

Here are some tips that would help your children to live a healthy life even if we are are living in a techno-savvy environment.

  1. Talk to children about the disadvantages of high levels of computer game use in ways that they can understand

  2. Preferably remove TV’s and computers from children’s bedrooms –or have a timer on computers or internet access to stop their use at a specific time. Make sure children cannot access mobile phones or games consoles after bedtime

  3. Set a good example by prioritising social and family time, and making time to play or talk with children. As parents try to limit your own use of screens and technology to lead by example.

  4. Set limits for children’s time in front of a screen (your family-your rules, but ideally this should not exceed 2 hours a day)

  5. Praise children when they make good decisions about viewing time

  6. Have meals without the TV on – make mealtimes family time. Don’t allow any eating of snacks in front of the TV

  7. Encourage outdoor play and social activities

  8. Provide good books, board games and toys to engage children and encourage children to use them

  9. Encourage your children to have interests and hobbies and spend time actively pursuing them

  10. Supervise and monitor which TV programmes are watched and which sites your children can access on the computer. Don’t allow unsupervised access.

  11. Occasionally check what computer sites your child has accessed and talk to them about it.

  12. Spend time playing with your child on the computer and make the activity social

  13. Provide computer games that encourage activity and physical movement, such as the Wii

  14. When watching TV plan an activity during the adverts such as running on the spot, jumping jacks or ask who can do the most sit-ups. Or use an exercise machine in front of the TV

  15. Encourage other children to come to your home to play –encourage activities other than computer games or TV.

  16. Stop children being in front of a screen for 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime to reduce the excitation of the brain before sleep.

  17. Have screen-free days – maybe one day a week – and have screen-free times each day

  18. Spend 15-20 minutes every day with each child playing, talking or doing something that they want to do that does not involve screen time.


We all understand the need of protecting children in the real world but it is equally important for all parents and elders to protect their children from online threats. As a parent you can play an important role in protecting your children against Cyber Abuse. It is high time for parents and elders to take an active role in sharing with your kids about the use and abuse of cyber.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

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