DUBAI // The negative effects of the media on young minds will be discussed at the first GCC Youth Media Forum this week.
Organisers say the three-day conference is the result of a youth welfare strategy set by the leaders of GCC countries. Youth advocates have joined forces with print and broadcast professionals at the forum, which began yesterday at the Monarch Hotel in Dubai.
"This forum aims primarily to examine the negative effects of media on young people and suggest ways to address them in light of the changes in the Arab world and worldwide," said Ibrahim Abdul Malik, the secretary general of the Public Authority for Youth and Sports, in his opening address. "That is why the organising committee was keen to choose 'values' as the underlying theme for all seminars held during the forum."
He said the forum gave media professionals a chance to hear from young people. "The aim is to make media a tool to highlight our identity, values and strengthen these among the young people in various aspects of life."
The forum's programme began with a panel discussion on the role of media in promoting values, hosted by Mariam Rashid, a presenter from Dubai TV.
The panellist Abdullah Bukhatir, from the Sharjah Sport Council, told the audience it was important to monitor the kinds of information the media were exposing people to at a young age.
"When it comes to instilling values, a child starts development from the age of 5 until the age of 12," he said. "This period is where the child's foundations are formed in humanity, religion and culture. At a later stage, it hard for a parent to change the behaviour of the youth."
He told the audience that the average child in the Gulf did not spend more than six minutes a year in a library, but would sit in front of a television for 2,200 hours.
A fellow panellist Ali Al Quhais, the Dubai bureau chief for the Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh, spoke about the need for stricter controls of foreign media.
"There is a video game that my son's friend plays ... and when you kill a person you earn US$700," he said.
"By the end of the game, the player wants to become a hero by killing Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. This game is not even allowed in the US, but it is sold here in the UAE."
The fourth member of the panel was Mohammed Al Hammadi, the editor in chief of Arabic National Geographic, which is published by Abu Dhabi Media, owner of The National. He argued that young people were far more aware of important issues than many adults believed.
"In our society, we always look at youth in a way that we are senior to them and they are inferior to us," he said.
"But I think the fear over youth is overrated. If we could instil values in them from the beginning, give them life rules ... I think they are smart enough to filter the information and decide if they take it in or not."
* With additional reporting by Mostapha El Mouloudi