From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : DPDP Bill, 2023
Mains level : Children's Online Safety
- Recent Congressional hearings, including Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s public apology, shed light on the alarming rise of online child exploitation, prompting global concerns over children’s safety on social media platforms.
- Tech giants face mounting pressure worldwide as parents and activists demand increased accountability and safer online environments for children, highlighting issues beyond privacy concerns to encompass broader security risks.
Risks to Children’s Online Safety
- UNICEF Report Findings: A UNICEF report titled ‘The Metaverse, Extended Reality and Children’ underscores significant risks associated with virtual environments, including exposure to explicit content, cyberbullying, and data privacy violations, which could have profound impacts on children’s well-being.
- Emerging Dangers: Virtual environments and games, while not fully immersive yet, present dangers such as exposure to inappropriate content and exploitation, raising questions about the ethical implications of children’s digital interactions.
Issues Faced by Children Online
- Exposure to Inappropriate Content: Children may inadvertently encounter violent, pornographic, or hate speech content while navigating the internet.
- Online Predators and Grooming: Children face the risk of encountering online predators who exploit social media and gaming platforms to form relationships and groom them for exploitation.
- Cyberbullying: Children can fall victim to cyberbullying, which entails using digital technology to harass, intimidate, or humiliate others.
- Privacy Concerns: Due to a lack of awareness about privacy settings, children may unintentionally disclose personal information online.
- Addictive Behavior: Excessive screen time and prolonged use of digital devices can foster addictive behaviors, impacting children’s mental and physical well-being, academic performance, and social interactions.
Challenges Posed by Generative AI
- Potential Benefits and Pitfalls: Generative AI offers opportunities for creativity and learning but also poses risks, including the spread of disinformation and harmful content that could influence children’s cognitive development adversely.
- Vulnerability to Misinformation: Children, with developing cognitive abilities, are particularly susceptible to misinformation propagated through AI-generated content, raising concerns about the impact on their perceptions and behaviors.
Measures in India: DPDP Bill, 2023
- Definition of Minors: The DPDP Bill defines individuals under the age of 18 as minors. This definition acknowledges that children are particularly vulnerable and deserve additional safeguards for their personal data.
- Data Processing Obligations: The bill places three specific conditions on data processing entities when handling children’s data:
- Obtaining verifiable parental consent: As mentioned above, entities must ensure they have proper consent from a parent or guardian before processing a child’s data.
- Not causing harm to children: Data processing activities should not harm or exploit children in any way.
- Not tracking or targeting ads at children: Entities are prohibited from tracking children’s online behavior for targeted advertising purposes.
- Exemptions: The bill allows the government to exempt certain entities from the requirement of parental consent and tracking and targeting ads for specific purposes. However, such exemptions must be for the best interests of a child.
- Corporate Responsibility: Tech companies must prioritize ‘safety by design,’ integrating measures to protect children’s well-being and privacy into their platforms, guided by principles outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Regulatory Intervention: Governments play a crucial role in periodically assessing and updating regulatory frameworks to address emerging challenges in child safety online, including combating harmful content and behavior.
- Community Engagement: Upholding existing rules and norms that protect children offline should extend to the digital realm, fostering a collective responsibility among stakeholders to create a safer online environment for children.
- Addressing the multifaceted risks to children’s safety online requires collaborative efforts from tech companies, governments, and communities, guided by a shared commitment to uphold children’s rights and well-being in the digital age.