Children’s constant exposure to thousands of free online video games may have a darker downside, police warn. Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dubai: On any given day, a large number of children across the UAE are logging on to internet websites to play live video games to while away their time. But the seemingly innocent moments spent on computers, tablets or smart phones and constant exposure to thousands of free online video games may have a dark side, said Dubai Police.

Senior officials warned that some websites may be hurting impressionable youth by exposing them to violence, crime and promotion of drug culture.

Major-General Khalil Ebrahim Al Mansouri, Assistant to the Dubai Police Chief for Criminal Investigation Affairs, said police noticed that some online games simulate the committing of crimes and many children play online without parental supervision.

“Online games are not as safe as they first appear. These sites are educating children about how to commit crimes like murder and theft and some sites encourage them to join terrorist organisations. Some sites show how to commit fraud on social networks and promote drugs,” Maj-Gen Al Mansouri said.

While the police spare no effort in monitoring games centres and internet cafes to keep users and teenagers under check, it is critical that parents also monitor their children’s use of computers or electronic devices, police said.

“Parents must look after their children and know their social media accounts and see who their friends are. We are cooperating with the games centres and cafes to monitor the teenagers but parents are a key element in protecting the children,” Maj-Gen Al Mansouri said.

Police warned that children online can unwittingly come into contact with adults who hide behind anonymous identities and dupe them into committing immoral or illegal activities even when the police take counteraction to safeguard the youth.

For example, 38 websites promoting drugs inside the UAE have been blocked by the police.

Colonel Eid Mohammad Thani Hareb, director of the Anti-Narcotic Department, said all members of society must come together to protect children.

“These games and sites are very dangerous for children and teenagers; many sites are promoting drugs,” Col Hareb said. “Some sites lure users to earn big amounts of money by promoting or smuggling drugs. This is why parents must look after their children,” he added.

The most common online drug, he said, was ‘Spice’ and the police had set up a department to monitor sites promoting the drug in the UAE since 2012.

“Since that time, we have closed 160 sites promoting drugs — mainly Spice — including 38 sites closed in 2016.”

Police said they deployed 4,279 electronic patrols in the first four months of 2017 to monitor the sites every day and coordinated with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority to block the suspicious sites and games.

Police urged parents to be on the lookout for sudden mood or behavioural changes in their children, especially if their children are spending a lot of time online. If they notice severe mood swings, they should seek prompt professional help, police advised.

Box:

38

websites promoting drugs blocked by Dubai Police in 2016

4,279

Electronic patrols deployed by Dubai Police in 2017