UAE: Children spend 56 hours weekly playing online games; no restrictions, security are key concerns – wknd.

Saturday, Mar 05, 2022 | Sha'ban 02, 1443
Published: Thu 17 Feb 2022, 3:22 PM
Last updated: Thu 17 Feb 2022, 5:07 PM
Online gaming has been on the rise in the region, and a new report reveals that children in the UAE spend over 56 hours a week playing electronic games.
Children and teenagers spend a significant part of their time on their devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, gaming devices, virtual assistants, especially during long holidays– increasing their average online activity to eight hours per day.
As per a study commissioned by McAfee, around 18 per cent of parents, which is one in five parents, never monitor what their children are doing online.
Another 86 per cent of parents allow their children to play online games recommended for older children.
While lack of adherence to age restrictions and giving away personal information remains one of the key issues among children using the internet.
On the occasion of Safer Internet Day, observed earlier this month (February 8), experts highlight, “a huge amount of collective creativity, efforts, and resources are put in by the content creators to make it engaging enough for their audience and not ‘enriching enough,'” explains Girish Hemnani, Energy Healer and Life Coach in Dubai.
Hemnani further says, “The gaming industry is doing the same ‘more engagement’ and is even live! Parents cannot create and match that kind of engaging and exciting activities day in and day out as they have other responsibilities, including providing livelihood.
“Parents need to be very familiar with the idea that inculcating personal accountability, instilling discipline, and developing restrain is an act of love. Creativity and intelligence are active expressions, not passive hence should be more expressed with the help of other social skills.”
Experts say most of the children they see in their clinics do not adhere to basic age guidelines while watching TV or accessing content online.
Many children falsify their date of birth to obtain access to social media apps and websites; parents are often unaware and sometimes complicit.
Shedding light on possible solutions, Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, Dr Ameya Ghanekar says, “As a family, what we could do is schedule a certain ‘time to play games with kids.’ Play online games for a stipulated time along with your children. Be a part of the kids’ universe to understand it and then post-game – have discussions about it, have debriefs.
“Eventually restrict playing online games only with family members which could be 30 mins to 45 mins a day, which is way lower than the time kids spend now on online games.”
Additionally, they advise parents to make sure that they don’t use their mobile phones continuously throughout the day to set an example to their children, expecting them to emulate them.
He adds, “Families can agree to switch off wi-fi for the night. For example, post 10 pm till next day 6 am the wi-fi can be disconnected at least a few times a week. Most children play online games after their parents are fast asleep.”
Elucidating on other alternatives, Health & Safety Officer at Gulf Model School, Princiya Nahas says, “Children find these online games interesting as it challenges them. Similar challenges need to be provided to stimulate their interest by parents or school. School can take a proactive role by creating awareness on the negative effect of gaming.”
Educationists aver hours of gaming in a crouched position not only hampers the body posture but can also create long term damage to the senses.
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Nahas adds, “Parents need to spot the addiction phase of gaming where children can turn aggressive or hostile to a normal routine. Kids need to be taught about potential cyber issues that can creep into the gaming platform and cause unnecessary anxiety to them. Parents can enrol children in physical activities to limit device usage. Parents must not give kids devices when outdoors as it promotes conditioning to online gaming in them.”
As most devices nowadays have a screen time lock system where the hours on device usage can be limited or monitored, parents are urged to make use of the same.
She further adds, “Parents need to be vigilant and monitor the apps downloaded to their devices and set locks for downloading apps, especially for the younger ones.”
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