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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

UAE bans gaming website popular among children

Roblox was blocked on the order of UAE Attorney General

Roblox, aimed at children aged 8 to 15, is one of the websites blocked in the UAE on the order of the Attorney General, Dr Hamad Al Shamsi. Bloomberg
Roblox, aimed at children aged 8 to 15, is one of the websites blocked in the UAE on the order of the Attorney General, Dr Hamad Al Shamsi. Bloomberg

The UAE has banned a number of gaming websites – including a creation platform that claims to have 56 million players across the globe each month.

Roblox, aimed at children aged 8 to 15, was one of a number of websites blocked on the order of the UAE Attorney General, Dr Hamad Al Shamsi.

Some parents said their children were saddened by the move, in a discussion on the Abu Dhabi Q&A Facebook page.

“My 9-year-old plays Roblox daily, I monitor his games and chats from time to time and I haven’t come across anything that would indicate that this game is harmful,” said one post.

“I know the open chat is a portal for strangers but he only interacts with his cousin back home and a few friends, they talk constantly on the game so I definitely know whom he’s communicating with. He was very upset that this has been banned,” she said.

Another said their child only used the platform – which allows players to design their own games – to talk to his cousins and friends.

“I monitor his web use. We have had several conversations about internet safety, the dos and the don'ts of cyberspace,” the parent said.

“He is well informed and extremely responsible because he doesn't want to lose those privileges. The blocking of this game has saddened him because now [he] can no longer interact in a fun way with his friends and relatives.”

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However, many parents are supportive of the move, saying their children had been exposed to swearing, and even sexually explicit content, while playing the game.

One parent said her son used to play it occasionally, until she heard from colleagues back home that their children’s school had advised against it. She became more cautious about the game after that, she said.

“Although my son is sensible I still wasn’t comfortable, and have to say I’m glad it’s banned,” she wrote.

Noha El-Mohtady, from Egypt, 39, said her daughter, then 10 years-old, played the game round the clock for a couple of months in the summer of 2016 until she put a stop to it.

Many players used swear words, said Mrs El-Mohtady, but the final straw was the sexually explicit content.

“I was shocked. So I banned her immediately from playing the game,” she said.

You don’t know [the players’] backgrounds are and you don’t know how old they are. Maybe they are older than they say they are. From the content and the swearing and actions, this is not appropriate. So I am really, really happy that they blocked it.”

Other banned websites include those of interactive toys My Friend Cayla, an 18" doll, and CloudPets stuffed toys – both of which are reported to have suffered data breaches in recent months.

Blue Whale, a 50-day challenge in which the player is then asked to take their own life, and Mariam, the search for a lost girl which also asks for personal information, were also banned as part of the attorney general’s order.

Blue Whale was allegedly linked to the death of two teenage pupils last month. And Sharjah Police last August issued a warning about Mariam, which asks users where their home is located, saying it was being used by criminals to steal people’s information.

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