OPN_School kids pranking
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In this much-digitised world, an event being held in a tent on the steppes of Central Asia could be filmed and quickly loaded on one of the social media venues such as Tik Tok or YouTube and can be viewed across the world by villagers in Peru within a matter of seconds. Such is the speed and swiftness by which many of us are quickly becoming aware of cultural and social norms in different corners of the world without even having to visit those faraway places.

In some cases, what is gleaned from such video clips can be helpful in nature. However, in other extreme cases, negative influence creeps into a society whose youth quickly adopt some foreign mores that can be destructive. A case in point is the annual senior student prank day or Muck Day as it is referred to in the UK and Australia, a day when high school graduating students are given a pass to let their hair down and blow off some steam.

After twelve long years of studying and finishing off under the pressures of the final exams in their final school year, these children, loaded on bursting hormones often take matters to an extreme with their free passes, alarming the very institutions that had allowed prank days to take place. Often these out-of-control events are quickly uploaded on social media to be shared around the world.

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All this apparently has not been lost on some of the schoolchildren in Saudi Arabia. Recently, several schools have been engaging in these pranks that have gone out of hand accompanied by destructive behaviours.

In one school, graduating students took it upon themselves to pull most of the fire alarms causing confusion and distress to the lower-grade students.

Some brought spray cans of snow foam that were used to deface school property and in one incident a teacher was sprayed directly with foam which could have led to a tragic consequence. Not to mention the stairs on the building leading to the upper floors that had become very slippery and sticky with all that was being thrown about.

While for the most part, many students are just having fun, others take it a step too far. In an era in which one’s worth is determined by how many followers or likes he or she can garner on social media, the wilder the antic, the more likely it becomes a path to more viewership and that is what fuels the motives of those who take things to the extreme, and with their mobile phone cameras ready are quick to record the events.

These pranks that border on vandalism are being addressed by school administrators and government authorities. In one of the schools, the school principal delegated the offending students to hours of community service for participating in the ruckus as well as attending workshops on compassion. There were also threats that repeat offenders would be barred from attending their graduation ceremonies.

Taking matters into its own hands

Another school demanded that their parents be brought in and that an undertaking was to be signed by the offending student of ‘never again.’ The principal told the students flatly that if such an event was ever to occur in the future, the police would be brought in, and the law then would take matters into its own hands.

To stem these forms of pranks in schools and elsewhere and deeming it as ‘destructive behaviour’, legislation has been added to the country’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law that clearly forbids the posting of pranks on social media and punishments are severe.

Dr. Majed Garoub, a civil lawyer stated that “The punishment for such crime ranges from SR500,000 to SR5 million or imprisonment from six months to three years. However, both penalties can be applied, depending on the nature of the violating content.”

With respect to their juvenile status, Garoub added, “The authorities require them to appear for investigation through a certain mechanism that takes into consideration their age and the presence of their guardians. There are special courts, youth detention centers for the offenders who are still underage.”

In the twelve long years that these students have spent within school walls, some of it was expended on learning about the core Islamic values and behaviours such as respect, discipline, compassion, and accountability. These qualities are part of our faith and should not be shaken by the intrusion of alien traits that go contrary to our beliefs.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena