DUBAI // “My fellow Emirati parent,” a message doing the rounds on social media last year began.
“If you feel your children are nowhere to be found – each has locked themselves up in their room and don’t even join you for breakfast, lunch or dinner – just disconnect the Wi-Fi for a few seconds and you’ll see them come charging out to see you.
“Don’t be surprised if your neighbour comes knocking in his pyjamas to make sure everything’s OK.”
The parent’s point was this week backed by a Gallup survey that showed the UAE now outranks the US and the UK in the percentage of homes connected to the internet.
The report found the global average for home-internet access was just 32 per cent. Only 23 countries reported connectivity of 80 per cent or more.
In the UAE, where researchers surveyed 2,000 Emiratis and Arab expatriates in 2011, 85 per cent of the Arabic-speaking population had an internet connection at home.
Only 80 per cent were connected at home in the US, while 84 per cent were online in the UK. During the holidays, Badria Al Mulla and her children head to their farm in rural Dhaid. But not even their stocks of goats, sheep, chickens and cows can distract the family from spending up to four hours a day on the net.
“We got a DSL link from Etisalat, which used a satellite dish,” said Mrs Al Mulla. “It was great and very fast, much faster than the connection we had in Dubai.
“But after the first year we kept having connection problems and I realised I was spending too much money on something that just wasn’t working when we needed it. Now we have two USB 3G sticks that use prepaid Sim cards, so we’re only using what we need.”
She said her children were not online as much as they would be in Dubai, but they still played games and watched videos on YouTube.
The Al Ali family used to take their 3G USB camping with them.
“It was just so the kids would have access to the internet to check their email and things like that,” said Abdulla Al Ali, a father of five.
“But they kept fighting over it and it kept getting lost. It became such a hassle that I just stopped doing it.”
The top five countries were Sweden (93 per cent), Singapore (93), Denmark (92), the Netherlands (91) and New Zealand (89).