DUBAI // Internet-connected "smart" phones are a moral danger to children, and parents should discourage their use, Dubai's police chief said yesterday.
Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, who is also chairman of the Dubai Juvenile Association, said the group would launch a campaign in the new year to educate parents and children about the perils of the technology.
"I call on parents not to buy smart phones for their children," he said. "Let them stay on the store shelves. Indecent pictures are being spread through these phones and the only way we can protect our children is not to allow them to use them.
"Some of my colleagues showed footage of what is being distributed on those phones and it is dangerous for our youth." Lt Gen Tamim said he would not ask the telecoms operators to find a solution, as had been done in the past, because the process took too long. He said the best solution currently available was to avoid the devices.
"The solution we have now is to call on parents and young people themselves to reject such phones as they are damaging the morals of future generations. This needs to stop," he said.
The awareness messages will be distributed through radio talk shows and other media outlets, and in seminars.
Major Faisal al Shamari of the Higher Committee for the Protection of Children said this month that incidents of children taking indecent pictures and posting them online were on the increase.
He did not disclose any figures.
He urged parents not to make technology such as webcams and smartphones available.
Excessive use of mobiles such as smartphones can create a wall in social interaction between young people, causing them to rely on technology instead of human contact, Magda De Lange, a human development consultant, said.
"Children are under pressure to determine their place on the social ladder, particularly here in the UAE, where the majority of children live an affluent lifestyle," she added.
Mrs De Lange's daughter Milla, 10, asked for a mobile phone because 22 out of 24 children in her class own one. "I have asked my parents for a phone and they said, 'What's the point?'" said Milla.
Samineh Shaheem, an assistant psychology professor at Wollongong University in Dubai, has warned of mobile phone use by children as well as the consequences of feeling left out.
"The child's cognition has not yet developed skills to balance the usage of a telephone," she said.
"They don't understand that when they speak on the phone, someone's paying for it."
With mobiles so popular, Ms Shaheem said, not being part of the crowd can cause children to feel isolated, which can harm them socially. "One must move with the cultural and social and technological trends, if this is the trend at the time. However, if one stays behind that trend there are consequences, like being made fun of."
* With additional reporting by Amna al Haddad