Dubai: A Dubai school has issued a notice to parents alerting them to the dangers of a video game that their children might be playing.
The note sent by GEMS Wellington Academy Silicon Oasis (GEMS WSO) said the survival game Fortnite, which is available on most devices that children use, is set on earth where a sudden storm results in the disappearance of 98 per cent of the world’s population, and the remaining lot are attacked by zombie-like creatures.
The note said, “In the UK, the Video Standards Council rates Fortnite as PEG! 12 for frequent scenes of violence. Please review the warning around the game.”
The school quoted findings by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, a UK-based charity, that suggested 25 per cent of those playing the game had been contacted online by strangers. The charity, the school said, had advised parents to turn off the voice chat system in the game through the settings menu to safeguard their children. However, it was a matter of concern that the text messaging system in the game could not be disabled.
According to Western media reports, the UK law enforcement agency had also issued a chilling warning about the dangers of children being preyed upon by paedophiles.
Michael Hall, CEO and Principal of GEMS WSO, told XPRESS, “Well-being is at the core of our culture and we work proactively in promoting this by partnering with our parent community. Given that prevention is at the core of our approach, we aim to raise awareness around media, including popular games.”
He said the game can be played alone or in teams with 100 players at a time, and one can opt into voice chat with teammates. “This increases children’s exposure to connecting to strangers online through the voice chat function. It is advised that parents turn off the voice chat through the settings menu. Presently, there is no option to disable the text messaging function, so it is important to monitor this communication.”
Hall said, “Given the game’s popularity, we felt that this was an important piece of information that should be shared with parents/guardians. It is with this intention we circulated a letter within our parent community. While we understand that popular media will continue to be a part of a child’s life – parents and guardians need to have knowledge of the gaps in order to minimise risk exposure. Maintaining open communication around technology usage is an important strategy for families to consider to enable online safety.”
The school said the UK charity had urged parents to familiarise themselves with their children’s online activities. It also encouraged parents to let children know they could talk to them if they were upset with something they had encountered online and agree on family rules on how to use apps, sites and games. They were urged to use privacy settings and parental controls in their children’s interest.
Parents welcome move
One of the mums at the school said such alerts were welcome and must be taken seriously. “I do not allow my boys to play video games as it takes away from their being children. There are many other ways in which they can be kept occupied. Even otherwise, I let them stay bored as it is a luxury.”
Another parent said, “It’s important to set rules and manage game time when the kids are young because it’s impossible to ween them away when they become teenagers. And of course, the threat of stranger-danger is a grim reality.”