Children who are addicted to dangerous video games are becoming a major concern for the parents, voiced people from various segments of the society in the UAE.
Suicide, assaulting parents and getting into group fights are some of the unexpected outcomes of kids playing addictive violent video games - Blue Whale, Fortnite, Pok�mon etc - to fight boredom during the summer vacation.
Police authorities in Sharjah and Ajman said they are putting together a mechanism to launch a national campaign to prevent children from the risks of violent electronic games.
Major-General Sheikh Sultan Al Nuaimi, Commander-in-Chief of the Ajman Police, said they are making efforts to end all forms of teen violence, with schools being the main target. "In the last two years, the police have arrested a number of teenagers involved in violence and group fights. During interrogations, they confessed they often played violent video games and watched violent movies."
He urged parents to supervise their children's activities to ensure they are using non-violent media. He also urged to prevent kids from being out late at night.
Hanadi Saleh Al Yafei, head of the organising committee for the child safety campaign 'Cyber Safety for Children' in Sharjah, said parents are responsible for the protection of their children from the risks of violent games.
"Child protection is one of the top priorities of the Sharjah Government. According to a study conducted by ICDL Arabia, only 42 per cent of the children are willing to inform their parents about cyber threats or bullying they encounter online. This means parents and educators must take proactive measures to learn about best practices and nurture skills that can guide children to use their digital devices in a responsible manner. Trust between children and parents is vital for kids to report any online harassment they face," she said.
An official at the National Media Council said that films, books, videos, electronic games and other media in the UAE are now required to display a rating symbol that classifies the content according to the age. The move is part of the government efforts that are aimed at protecting children from being exposed to dangerous media material.
The official added that practitioners of licensed media activities in the country are required to classify the content of their publications and activities through specific symbols to ensure they are compatible with the values of the community.
"The NMC has identified a set of symbols for any video or print content that must accompany products to inform consumers of their respective age suitability," he said.
A professor at University of Sharjah College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences said that many studies and researches suggested that playing violent video games, watching violent movies, wrestling and boxing shows, and using social networks and websites were behind the aggressive behaviour exhibited by children, teenagers and young adults.
"According to recent studies conducted in research centres, 80 per cent of children in the UAE between the ages of eight and 21 play video games, and they spend about nine hours a week doing so," he said. Studies also revealed that exposure to violent video games and shows increased aggression-related thoughts and feelings among children and young adults.
Hiam Abu Mishal, family counsellor, warned how games are becoming a major threat. "These games make children selfish and aggressive. Parental supervision is a must while playing video games. Advice them with love and play with children so as to understand them. Also, parents should not involve children in family issues. Involve them in sports activities and reading and don't to leave them alone at home. Parents must avoid excessive cruelty in raising children and ensure warmness, love and family balance," he said.
Officials at Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Ajman and Al Qasimi Hospital in Sharjah said that at least two to three cases of injuries among children are being reported in hospitals every month, after following instructions from electronic games.�
"Children also come in from schools and homes with injuries on their arms, legs and various other body parts as a result of fighting, jumping from high points and other violent acts.
"Parents who allow children watch any kind of violent entertainment - wrestling, violent movies or video games - must make it clear to their children that they must not emulate or attempt to carry out what they see in the shows. Many sports such as boxing, football and hockey also encourage different forms of violence among children.
"A violent culture can also be promoted by shows and videos on websites. They watch these and become desensitised to pain, suffering, and horror."