INDIA: Curbs on entry of under-14s into cyber cafés

Government seeks to pass a law to ban children under the age of 14 from accessing the Internet at any public establishment unless accompanied by an adult

Times of India
Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bangalore --- If the Karnataka government has its way, no child below the age of 14 years will be allowed into a cyber cafe unless accompanied by an adult. The move is to curb the harmful influence of internet on children.

"Not just cyber cafes but any other establishment which provides computer services to the general public for a cost will come under the ambit of the proposed law. The rules are being scrutinised by the government," officials told Sunday Times of India.

The rules state that establishments providing training to children through computers shall ensure mandatory installation of child-friendly safeguards and that no child below the age of 14 has access to internet facilities.

The rules even restrict hotels and other establishments providing boarding and lodging from providing internet facilities for children without filters. Any objectionable material presented either through film/videos, disc players, cable or any other medium by that establishment is strictly prohibited too.

What prompted this decision is the indiscriminate usage of the net and free exposure to unsuitable sites. "At present, there is absolutely no check on centres providing net facilities.

"Many do not block sites that are not suitable for children," sources said. To keep a check on browsing centres, a special advisory group comprising child counsellors, child psychologists and police officers will be set up. Also, special officers will inspect their net centres from time to time. Cyber cafe owners have welcomed the move.

"With this rule, we can prohibit children from viewing sites which are not suitable for them," a browsing centre owner said.