Parents here in the United Arab Emirates are worried. They have generously provided their children with BlackBerry sets, and what do their children do in return? They go and use their latest phones to their full potential. Hundreds of parents have complained that their children have exploited a loophole that allowed them to surf the web for pornography.
Do they scold their children, talk to them, or take their phones away (thinking perhaps they might be too young to even own such a phone)? No. Instead, the parents complain to the people at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (and most probably blame them for such unforgivable negligence and incompetence).
So the parents complained that their children were circumventing the proxy server and seeing pornographic websites on mobile devices. The director general of TRA confirmed saying that BlackBerrys have a Short Message System feature that can link messages, and that children started to broadcast links to websites where they could download pornographic content.
TRA has taken action to make sure that pornography is no longer accessible through BlackBerrys.
“The BlackBerry is a business phone,” a guy who owns an internet applications said. “I don’t think it is true about children using it to access pornography. I think they are using that as a justification for the ban.” He also said that the Government “has woken up to the fact that censorship didn’t include phones”.
Personally, I’ve seen children as young as twelve roaming around with BlackBerrys. But since I’ve also read here about an Emirati teenager who has been jailed for having intimate relations with his 13-year-old girlfriend, who court records say willingly went to him after abandoning a two-day family vacation, I don’t see any reason why we should believe the children are NOT downloading pornography videos on their mobiles.
I was just thinking about the importance of providing our children with their own mobile sets, when I remembered an incident that happened last month. Masood and I were at the mall, waiting for the elevator at the 4th floor. Waiting with us was a guy with two girls: one was around four or five years old, while the other was a small baby in the stroller. The moment the elevator doors opened, the four-year-old ran inside. The doors closed and she went down all alone. The father panicked, hand the baby over to me, and ran down the escalator. Minutes later, he received a call. His daughter apparently went all the way down to the ground level, spotted the security guy, and told him her father’s mobile number.
When the father returned to collect his baby from us, he said, with tears in his eyes, “We just had her memorize my number this morning.”
Lesson learned: you do not need to buy BlackBerrys for your children. As a matter of fact, very young children do not even need to have their own phones.