The first thing Vedant Shanbag did after being gifted a laptop on his 13th birthday last year was to open a Facebook account. Since then, he logs on to the social networking site for close to two hours every afternoon.
“All my friends are on Facebook; so I decided to give it a try. I chat with my friends, see what they are doing and play games sometimes,” said Shanbag, Class 9 student, of St Peters School, Mazagaon.
With most Mumbaiites irrespective of their age having an account on Facebook, there’s mixed opinion among academicians and counsellors on whether 13 years should be the minimum age limit to register on social networking websites.
“There could be mature 13-year-olds and there could be immature 25-year-olds. Instead of asking children to not use it, they must be taught how to use it,” said Dr Anjali Chhabria, a psychiatrist. “Facilities such as ‘Family Safety Center’ on Facebook that provides guidelines must be used by parents and teachers to advise children.”
On her father’s advice, Devika Nair, 16, has decided against having a Facebook account after her fake profile was created and messages were sent out to her friends. The profile was deleted after a complaint was made to the school principal.
“Children are ignorant and they must be advised to not join social networking sites till they are 18 years,” said Divakaran, her father.
Even Kavita Aggarwal, principal, DG Khetan International School, Malad, said 13-year-old children are not mature enough to use such websites. “They enjoy accessing these websites because they are not supervised. However, it is unsafe because children tend to give out personal information. The use of slang language has adverse effects on their academics,” said Aggarwal.
However, according to Indu Mathur, principal of Apeejay School at Kharghar, teenagers are more mature and capable of protecting themselves on the Internet due to an increase in media exposure.
“We have to learn to make them independent at the right age. Social networking websites de-stress children. Parents and teachers must intervene to provide guidance against possible threats and to maintain focus on studies,” said Mathur.