The influence of electronic games

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Okaz newspaper

WHETHER or not the suicide of a Saudi child in Abha recently was because of playing the "Blue Whale" electronic game or because of social and psychological reasons does not make big difference. However, I believe the responsibility for this incident should be shouldered by institutions that have not done their duty by taking preventive measures and conducting studies on the effects of electronic games.

We also know that these organizations have failed to inform the public about the result of their survey on Blue Whale. At the same time, they think they are not responsible for children’s suicides and their addiction to electronic games, the Internet and social media networks.

According to experts, Blue Whale targets depressed and disgruntled people while its producer said his victims who kill themselves are "biological waste". It reflects his hatred toward underprivileged people as stated by some analysts while some others said the man produced the game to show his superiority and control over others.

I am not concerned with the motives of those who produce various electronic games. I know that their main objective is to make money. According to Sara Al-Suhail of (the Egyptian newspaper) Al-Ahram, electronic games account for a considerable portion of the global economy. Statistics show the estimated value of electronic games market is $110 billion and by 2020 it will reach $200 billion.

Unfortunately we don’t attach much importance to experts and professionals. So whenever any issue arises our society is divided into two groups. For one group everything is OK while for the other everything is problematic. Both groups belong to the school of media auctions and those who make big noise without any substance.

In the case of the Abha boy’s suicide we see the absence of the Education Ministry, Labor and Social Development Ministry and colleges of education, community welfare and psychology departments in our universities as well as the absence of civil society. Along with these institutions we notice the absence of experts and professionals.

My question is where was the Education Ministry since 2013 when Blue Whale was launched and marketed all over the world? Why does the ministry bury its head in the sand as if it was not concerned with what is happening around it?

Is it not the duty of the Education Ministry to conduct studies on the impact of such games on students? Why the ministry is keeping mum on the issue of Abha boy, leaving the matter for individual interpretations instead of handling the issue professionally?

Do they think that their role is administrative, not educative, and they can give only administrative solutions and not educative ones? Have you heard about the Education Ministry or any other educational agency in the Kingdom conducting a study on the effects of electronic games on our children?

Have you heard about our battalion of educators conducting a study on the level of intelligence and creativity among students who are addicted to electronic games, the Internet and social media and those who rarely use them or have never used them?

Will the ministry allow educators to conduct such a study? Why the ministry is not showing courage even to imitate the good experiments of other countries if it is not capable to implement own projects for the welfare of the student community and society at large?

I would like to bring the attention of educators to the proposals made by a media workshop on children’s rights, which was conducted by the Arab Council for Childhood and Development in Cairo in cooperation with the Arab Gulf Program for Development and the Arab League.

It is quite unfortunate that those who follow educational news see only administrative decisions on transfer of teachers, transport of students and construction of school buildings. We don’t look for any success story among the 500,000-strong community of teachers in our country.

Students and teachers must use their innovative skills, intelligence and creativity to invent new things, instead of just bending over textbooks. The Education Ministry’s role with its size and potentials should not be limited to taking administrative decisions. Education officials should value the talents and achievements of students and teachers across the Kingdom.

It seems the gap between the Education Ministry and the universities is still wide even after the merger of the ministries of Higher Education and General Education. Why the ministry is not focusing on new educational developments? It should play an important role in realizing the Vision 2030 by producing a new generation of technocrats and industrialists to lead the country to greater progress.

We see administrative decisions superseding technical decisions not only at the Education Ministry but also in the Ministries of Health, Labor and Social Development, and Municipal and Rural Affairs. Its negative impact on education reflects on every individual and family.

I don’t want to exonerate parents for allowing their children to play various electronic games as well as to use the Internet and social media without restrictions. Free time, lack of monitoring and increasing temptations are challenges facing families and schools.

However, families will not be able to put protective measures on children except without the advice of educators, who have to set the age limit for children to play certain electronic games.

The Education Ministry and its battalion of educators should study the negative impact of electronic games on students and society, and adopt preventive measures, learning lessons from past mistakes before we witness more unhappy incidents involving our children.


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