Long ago we used to enjoy watching old-school cartoons such as Pollyanna – the girl who spreads love wherever she goes in her journey to find her mother. Our parents didn’t fear what we were watching and cartoons were “innocent”. But technology has made the world smaller; nothing is out of reach. Our kids are more aware than we were at their age.
When we were kids, we would wait for these cartoons to broadcast at regular times. But that changed when several children’s TV channels began broadcasting in the Arab region. The trend started about eight years ago, with the first “free-to-air” children’s channel, Spacetoon, headquartered in Dubai.
We loved everything about this channel. The fact that it broadcast nothing but cartoon shows was just amazing. Doors opened for more and more free-to-air Arabic children’s channels that broadcast different episodes of mostly foreign cartoons. With that came another trend – Arabic-dubbed TV channels on the Arabsat and Nilesat, such as Nickelodeon.
We think that these English TV channels are broadcasting cartoons that suit our culture and religion as Muslims, but this is not the case.
As parents, we fail to remember that foreigners are living a different lifestyle than ours, one where kids at the age of 18 are allowed to live independently.
Recently a couple of channels broadcasted some dubbed cartoons which, as a parent, I found obscene and morally wrong. One scene showed two men kissing. This kind of shot would be censored in an adult movie on a regular local channel. I don’t understand how this scene was shown on a popular Saudi Arabian children’s channel and passed censorship. Another scene on another popular channel showed a brother kissing his sister. This would infuriate any parent of any religion. We usually hear about such things showing on some kids’ channels, but the experience of seeing it with my own eyes was shocking and I realised it isn’t just a rumour.
I started to think and worry about what my own kids are watching. Even though I’m almost always around when they’re watching TV and I always select age-appropriate cartoons for them to watch, I became suspicious that maybe they saw something without me noticing.
I have two children, a boy, 5 and a girl, 3. Every mother fears for her child’s safety and well-being, but with technology invading our lives rapidly, it’s become more difficult for us to keep some things away from them.
How can I forbid my kids and others from watching such scenes? I can delete these channels, but that’s not the solution since not all parents are aware of this issue. This makes me think that there is a need for us to step up and pay more attention and censor not only adult but children’s programmes as well. I hope that the UAE’s censorship committee is more vigilant and watches the children’s programmes more closely.
Growing a culturally confused generation would create a nation with a lost identity. We must not forget our children; they are the ones who will eventually nurture the growth of this country.