Why India Fails On Child Online Safety

3 Reasons Why India Fails On Child Online Safety

Having worked on this problem for over a decade, one sees the solutions as clear as the stars in Ladakh. But before we go there, lets just talk numbers, 66 million + children use the Internet in India. They use it for education, gaming, entertainment, being social, And the industry is booming, with new minor user coming online, market estimates just the Indian animation industry to be $22.3 billion, the IOT toys market in India is a $13.5 billion and growing at a rapid rate, Kids digital advertising market in India is estimated to be worth $4.78 billion in 2023, The ed tech industry is also catching up with $2.8 billion.

I wouldn't be surprised if the total market size of children using digital services and products is around $ 100 billion in India & it's growing. We have the users, we have the money no let's explore the laws -


  1. The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act)
    • Section 67B: prohibits the publishing or transmission of material that depicts children in a sexually explicit manner.
    • Section 67: criminalizes the publication or transmission of obscene material in electronic form, which can include child sexual abuse content.
  2. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act)
    • Addresses a broad range of sexual offences against children.
    • Includes provisions specifically related to online offences like:
      • Using children for the creation of pornographic content.
      • Online grooming of children for sexual purposes.
  3. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
    • Provides a framework for the care and protection of children, including those who have been victims of online offences.
    • Mandates that police and other authorities follow child-friendly procedures when dealing with cases involving children online.
  4. In the future DPDP act and DIA will also be playing an important role
General opinion that our laws are decently well written, above the global average on clarity for sure, though like all laws have some problematic implications. I am not diving deep into the theoretical discussions, there are better folks than me. I will share the practical side of the law, and that where my next section comes in, the enforcement side.

Who Comes To The Rescue When Things Go Wrong?

Parents > Family > Teachers > Friends that's pretty much 99% of problem solving framework for children in India, and that's where most of the problems remain. It's no different for offline violence so why should things change for online violence. We have loads of research to back this claim, some done by us as well.

Parents usually have a very low awareness, also as we Indians are Olympic gold medalists at victim blaming, IF a child does share a cyber crisis with their parent, they are usually scolded, device snatched and sent to their room. Not solving the issue, but that's considered dealt with in most Indian households. Lets just assume that you happen to be in a family where your parents/elder brother/sister are proactive about helping you, they reach out and search the web, they will probably find a non profit helpline, or a link to a social media platforms grievance officer - Facebook || Instagram || WhatsApp || YouTube || Snap || X/Twitter, if they are super empowered, or have never dealt with the law, they might as well drop a complaint on the National Cybercrime reporting portal or reach out to a Cyber Police Station.

The above is just the reporting process, which itself is quite the mission impossible, hence the super low reporting, post the reporting begins the harassing long process of trying to get help. Maximum a social media / gaming platform can do is block the perpetrators profile, if there is a properly filled police FIR and request for information (that rare unicorn), then within 90 days you might get more information about the incident from the platform.

I am not blaming any tech platform here, they are a business with a single aim to maximise profit while operating under the laws.

Once the information is received then it's up to the police to do their investigation, (which is on a low priority if you do not belong to the super privileged class of Indians ,or the matter is not about extreme violence and has got media’s attention). In this huge circus of realities, the most important question is forgotten. What about the child? How do we help them in the journey of becoming a survivor and not staying a victim all their lives? Yes! ALL their LIVES.

Most of us carry childhood traumas all our lives. Well in the particular case the ones who are supposed to help the child, need help themselves. They are understaffed, overworked and rarely paid on time. Difficult to get justice when the long arms of the law are broken & malnourished.

Now Comes The 3rd And The Most Important One. LACK OF AWARENESS!

It's the tragic part of all new technologies, I usually highlight the idea of seat belts, “NASH was the first American car manufacturer to offer seat belts as a factory option, in its 1949 models. They were installed in 40,000 cars, but buyers did not want them and requested that dealers remove them. The feature was "met with insurmountable sales resistance" and Nash reported that after one year "only 1,000 had been used" by customers".

1970 Victoria, Australia Passes the law

2024 Its a $93.2 billion dollar industry growing at 6% with Asia pacific being the largest market, though most Indians still don't wear them. But the culture is developing! Similarly the Internet is still new to us, 1st generation of digital native children are being brought up by 1st generation of digital migrants. Online safety is not a part of our culture, it's not basic, like electrical safety. It's pretty much common sense not to put your finger in the plug, but for that to develop it took many deaths.

Its like that famous phrase from one of the greatest poets of our times Jaun Elia - कौन सीखा है सिर्फ बातों से, सबको एक हादसा जरूरी है। Translated: People Don't Learn Through Teachings, They Learn Through Tragedy. Sadly I know this to be true, for the last 8 years I have spoken to parents, teachers and children, across India and a few other countries. Most of them roll their eyes and smirk if not internally than externally, except a few who’s eyes tear up because they have experienced cyber bullying, or their child was blackmailed online, or some who have even lost a loved one to a cyber crime.

Let's Quickly Get To The Solutions
  1. Create a culture of online safety, quickest routes (it will take 15 years) - have a digital citizenship curriculum across schools and colleges, teaching about the Internet, AI, emerging technologies and the online safety + responsibility aspects of it. Most of the world has started it or is about to start.
  2. Public awareness campaigns, like the ones about not sharing OTP, and credit card details, and fraud calls, it's a great start by the banks, thanks to the RBI pushing it.
  3. Online safety laws! No they do not stop innovation in multiple tech industries, be it automobile, aviation, computer hardware, electronics. You name it! I get it it takes time, but 2024 the time has come. If any one doubts me please listen to this congressional hearing where senators in the US had a conversation with big tech CEOs.

  4. (Hint: The elections are around the corner, We will be creating a child online safety manifesto, do support it)

    I will do a longer blog on solutions, well this one was to highlight the problems.
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