Yangchen C Rinzin

Younger parents have a liberal attitude toward allowing their children to use social media at an early age, but are equally worried about its overuse and related harms, according to a report on the social media landscape in Bhutan.

The report stated that Facebook is the most popular social media platform among children, with 98 percent of children with Facebook account, followed by YouTube (74.2 percent).

WeChat and Instagram are the third choices of Bhutanese children.

The study, conducted by the Bhutan Media Foundation, primarily aimed to generate data on the uses and understanding of social media in Bhutan.

It found that on average, the time that children spend on social media (158 minutes per day) is only about 10 minutes less than adults. “Education, seeking information, entertainment and socialisation were four major purposes children use social media.”

The study also found that the average age where Bhutanese parents would allow their children to use social media was 12 years.

About 52 percent of the parents surveyed reported that they are very worried about their children’s social media usage, more than 40 percent were slightly worried, and seven percent are not worried about it.

“While some parents are more liberal and would allow their children to use social media at only 11 years of age, some prefer to allow children to use social media only when they turn 13 years and 16 years old,” the report stated.

Although a majority of parents monitor their children on the use of social media, more than 30 percent would either never monitor or rarely monitor their children’s social media use.

However, the report revealed that only 16 percent of parents discuss social media ethical issues with children and some parents become friends with their children on social media to monitor them. “More than 60 percent of parents noticed that their children neglect other good activities due to addictive use of social media.”

The report also found that the government’s social media policy does not have a guideline on the minimum age for subscribing to a social media platform. “However, many psychologists agree that children develop the ability to think more abstractly only between 12-18 years, and suggest it is safer to join social media at 18 years.”

Meanwhile, RENEW officials said the exposure of children online is concerning in an earlier interview.

Officials explained that while the pandemic had mandated most children to use phones for online learning, it has also exposed many children to cybercrimes. “Parents have to monitor what the children are doing online,” an official said.

Officials from the National Commission for Women and Children said they conducted many awareness programmes for online safety for children. “But the responsibility to ensure a safe online environment falls on all caregivers,” an official said.

Edited by Tashi Dema