Our children and social media


Al-Watan newspaper

I HAVE noticed that teenagers are the protagonists in many stories relating to violence, crime, immorality and extremism in our community. As a result, I used to wonder how our families deal with their children, whether or not they provide their children with necessary care and attention.

There is a big gap between parents and their children. A friend of mine who is father of four boys and girls told me: "Every night I used to visit the bedrooms of my children to make sure they have fallen asleep in preparation to get up early in the morning to go to school."

The friend said he used to do this because he was worried about the health of his children. According to a recent study if children keep awake for long hours into the night it would endanger their health, especially if they are school-going students. Sleeplessness is one of the reasons for absence of students from school and the cause of them becoming drowsy in classrooms.

The study pointed out that children who spend sleepless nights would not be able to concentrate on lessons. It will increase tension and nervousness among teenagers. It will also affect blood circulation of children and produce large quantities of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. This hormone will not work except at night and will protect individuals from cancer. Sleeping in the daytime cannot compensate sleep lost in the night.

My friend said: "When I visited the room of my children once I saw a dim light from inside the blanket of a child. I raised the blanket quietly to know what he was doing and I found him watching a video clip on his cell phone. I seized the phone and asked him to sleep early to get up for the Fajr (dawn) prayer."

The story of this father reminded me of the danger of leaving children without supervision to follow social networking sites, especially if the content is unsuitable for them and contradicts Islamic teachings and Saudi customs and traditions. It is wrong to leave them without warning them about the dangerous content on the Internet and advising them to keep away from destructive sites.

There are many websites that deliberately promote religious extremism and immorality. These sites try to exploit teenagers, taking advantage of their age, their lack of knowledge and experience and their ignorance about the consequences of what they do.

All of us know that there are certain parties, countries and organizations that work through anonymous accounts on social media to destroy our youth and throw them to the gutters of extremism and moral degradation in order to realize their objectives and vested interests.

We should know that many anonymous players on social networking sites take part in discussions to provoke participants, create division in society and trigger conflicts among citizens by encouraging them to engage in ideological, sectarian and tribal altercations.

The family is an important social component responsible for a child's proper upbringing. It teaches a child how to deal with its open reality as well as the modern digital media. We don't have any control on modern information media as children can easily watch its programs.

The reality of today's children is quite different from those in the past. They witness changes in their lives, and they undergo rapid changes. They are destined to live with modern technology, computers, cell phones and smart boards, which can be utilized for both good and evil purposes. The Internet has become part and parcel of their daily lives.

The new media has turned into just platforms for communication and debate. These facilities can be used to strengthen relations between people and engage in constructive dialogue with others to understand and respect each other.

Unfortunately, social media networks are now used mainly to spread lies and rumors and promote hatred between communities. However, the most dangerous thing is enemies use new media to lure children and inject destructive ideas and thoughts in their minds and push them to revolt against their religion and social values, taking advantage of the absence of family attention.

Families will have to pay a high price for this absence as they will lose their children as a result of their negligence in providing them with proper religious education and inculcating moral and social values in their minds when they were young and for their failure to monitor negative changes in lives of children and provide them with proper direction to save them.

I believe that our educational institutions are capable of doing something to immunize students from falling into the trap of social media networks and becoming easy victims of suspicious players.

I am afraid that a kind of closed-door culture is gradually dominating our children, especially when we let them live in isolation away from family environment. This will give them an opportunity to expand their contacts with unknown and suspicious groups and agencies that induce them to follow their ideas through various means, while we remain just watchers.

All modern means of communication can access bedrooms of our children, and if we do not work hard to immunize them and provide them with awareness and good thoughts we will lose them as a result of our negligence and our failure to do our duty as parents. May God protect our children.