The modern technological advancements have paved the path to link up with the world via social media. The term social media itself brings out the socialization of the human beings with the modern trends. Simply, the outcome of the computer based technology is utilized to share ideas, thoughts through virtual network and communities. At present it is evident that children have being a part of the digitalized equipment in order to cover up their basic needs as education and entertainment. Thus, it is quiet questionable whether social media covers the primitive objectives rather than throwing into Devil’s hand.
The current status on social media and its impact over children
With the current pandemic, children have engaged with the e-learning practices and internet. Therefore, it is suggested that access to social media has become another opportunity. In Sri Lanka, there are no specific regulations imposed against either children or against except in emergency situation. Considering the child’s aspect, it is wondered whether children can equip social media with a right hand.
According to the recent statistics, the following are recognized as types of cyber violence;
a) Sending indecent text messages
b) Sharing indecent picture, clip arts, videos, texts, scripts, audio clips, e-mails
c) Online sexual harassment of a child
d) Cyber extortion
e) Online sexual harassment of a child
Even though, the statistics have pointed out that 100% of children have awareness on social media violence but yet, there are number of cases reported. Moreover, it has hindered the life of the children.
Moral and Legal Perspectives
Sri Lanka as a customary based nation, it is more prioritized in traditional patterns and the majority does not approve the usage of social media among children due to the lack of awareness among parents and the negative impression on social media. For instance, certain groups believe that addiction to social media will affect the education of the children.
In Sri Lanka, the age limitations have drawn for consuming alcohol and cigarettes and respective areas in order to restrict the use. Unfortunately, the law is silent as use of social media among children. Even though, the use of social media has resulted in number of negative ways to the children.
Irrespective of the restrictions imposed on the above said, it is clear that the laws have implemented to act against cyber bulling under Penal Code Act of 1885 and Computer Crimes Act No.24 of 2007 and other international instruments. Even though, there are no any direct regulations imposed over the online violence caused for children. In Penal Code section 286A deals with obscene publication of a child, Section 286B deals with duty of a person providing service by computer to prevent sexual abuse of a child and section 286C deals with duty to inform of use of premises for Child Abuse.
The incident of 15 years old Venusha Bandara emphasizes the fact that the children are being the innocent victims due to bullying of the Principal caused as a result of a picture shared on Facebook. Furthermore, there are many incidents that the children have started illicit relationships between unknown people with false identities.
Likewise, the children are been victimized by the use of social media and in most of the cases the laws are either silent or failed to address the point because majority of the people are not aware about the technology and the respective laws. Thus, according to the traditional social patterns, the society is more likely to hide the incidents that making litigations against the violence in Sri Lanka.
Why the law is silent?
It is evident that the Social Media Platforms have made restrictions over the use of it by the children, but the despite the limitations, there are an average number of accounts hold by children below the age of 18 years. And it is said that Meta Platforms Inc.’s Instagram has removed over 850,000 accounts in 2021 which did not fulfilled the relevant age requirements. But there 2 controversial social perspectives on the use of social media by children;
I. To protect the right to use social media for children
II. To ban the access to social media
Child’s rights are established under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children. Experts are argued that according to Article 15 of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children (UNCRC), it is stated that the freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly. Moreover, Article 13 shall protect the right to freedom of expression. In the legal perspective, it is ensured that the UNCRC encourages the rights of the children with more effective mechanisms and access to social media should be allowed in order to protect their own rights.
In fact, it is necessary to admit the above rights of the children. On the other hand, it is considered that if the expected goals of the rights are covered under the Convention due to access, the negative effects on children have been reported as a major social issue in the present context. The access to social media and its usage were adversely handled by the children and have become innocent victims. Thus, social media trends have become a new addictions. For instance, the social media figures out to show an unrealistic world with photos, videos and other instruments. These addictions have distracted the children from the physical backgrounds as the child parent relationship at the home was detached. Therefore the research has identified the negative effects of social media as Facebook depression, anxiety, and cyber stalking, cyberbullying and sleep deprivation.
The relationship between the children and internet is unbreakable due the advancement in technology. Simply, it is said that the children are born with technology. But the fact is that there are defects in the practice of it. Mainly because the children have no adequate knowledge about the nature of the society and on the other hand, there is lack of knowledge in technology for the adult generations. Likewise, it does not tackle with each other and ultimately resulted in danger. Therefore, it is suggested that children below the age of 18 years should be restricted or certain restrictions imposed from the access to social media because it is identified that there is a mismatch created between the children and social media. Instead, the platforms can create to engage child based activities in order to fulfill the necessity of socialization.
In conclusion, it is emphasized that according to the legal aspect restricting social media to children would hinder a violation on rights of the children. But it should be concerned on the fact that protection of children. Even though, there are limitations exercised by the respective authorities, the children have escaped and dragged into devil’s mouth. Therefore, Sri Lanka as a developing country should restrict the access to social media under the exception that protection of children should be more prioritized.
~Authored by Minoshi Perera
References:  Amy Drury, ‘Social Media’ <https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/social-media.asp> accessed 10 August 2022.  ‘A National Research on Incidence, Nature and Scope – Online Violence Against Children in Sri Lanka’  Ibid  ‘Global Press Journal – Use of Social Media as a Bullying Tool Subjects Many Sri Lankan Teens to Crippling Fear, Shame’ <https://globalpressjournal.com/asia/sri_lanka/use-of-social-media-as-a-bullying-tool-subjects-many-sri-lankan-teens-to-crippling-fear-shame/> accessed 10 August 2022.  Andrea Vittorio, ‘Social Media Faces Privacy ‘Paradox’ in Spotting Underage Users’, 29 December, 2021 <https://news.bloomberglaw.com/privacy-and-data-security/social-media-faces-privacy-paradox-in-spotting-underage-users> accessed 10 August 2022.  ‘Social Media and Children’s rights in the Global Village’ < https://www.connectsafely.org/rights-of-children-in-the-digital-age/> accessed 10 August 2022.  Vinay Prajapati, ‘The Negative Effects of Social Media on Teenagers, Youth or Adolescents’, 23 February 2021 <https://www.techprevue.com/negative-social-media-adolescents/> accessed 10 August 2022.