The Madras High Court’s directive to the Centre to ban popular social media mobile app TikTok citing “explicit disturbing content” has left several parents bewildered. Most think the “entertainment app is just for fun” and wonder whether the move will be successful in curbing the flow of inappropriate content among children.
“If the government really thinks that children are having access to vulgar content, then why just TikTok, they should ban reality shows too. What about those dancing reality shows in which kids as young as four years of aged dance to item numbers,” asks Vaishali Patil, a make-up artiste.
Explained: Why TikTok faces court heat in India
She adds, “TikTok is for fun and entertainment. Children dance and record videos. It isn’t the first platform to spread vulgar content. You can have access to such content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well. You can get them online, you can get them on your phone. So, I see no point in banning the app.”
Speaking on similar lines, her 17-year-old daughter Gauri asks why are item songs not censored. “There are innumerable number of Bollywood and English songs that contains sexual language and obscene visuals. It takes minutes for children to get obsessed by such songs. Claims that the app encourages porn is absolutely ridiculous,” she adds.
Some homemakers complain of how channels like MTV are also promoting bad behaviour among children. “The government is creating an issue over an app which is mostly used for fun. Children enjoy it and they like recording the videos too. There are so many reality shows on MTV which show inappropriate content. The participants use such foul language. There are innumerable examples and is it actually possible to stop their flow?” adds Sarita Shaw.
On the petitioner’s claims that children tend to commit suicide and the app exposes them to sexual predators, counselling psychologist Pavitra Sahay says, “TikTok isn’t the first platform to encourage suicides among children. You have several other online games for that. Besides, suicides are often linked to bullying and peer pressure which can happen through any means. TikTok is not the cause of suicide. The child might be either bullied or there might be some sort of peer pressure due to the app but then… why just an app? A child can be bullied for other reasons too. Parents must talk to them to find out what is going wrong?”
She adds, “If the government thinks that children are scantily dressed while shooting a video, then you don’t need TikTok for that. Television is enough. The internet is evolving and there is a wide range of content that one can have access to.”
TikTok was removed from Google Play Store and the Apple App Store on a request from MeitY after the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court asked the government to take action. The petitioner claims the “degrading culture and encouraging pornography besides containing explicit disturbing content and causing social stigma and medical health issue between teens”. The petition also talks about how the app was harming children, and even gave instances of how some children had allegedly committed suicide because of the app. The petition says children who used the app were vulnerable as it exposed them to sexual predators and alleged that the app was violating privacy of users, including these children.