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Technology with Teenagers and Parental Control in the United Arab Emirates

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Technology with Teenagers And Parental Control In The United Arab Emirates


Modern times are defined by technology advancement and an increase in access to the technology. People all around the globe even in the third world countries are now using this technology to stay up to date.

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. It is a well known fact that Middle Eastern countries are included in most well developed nations in terms of their finances and resources. Higher authorities in these countries are well aware of ways in which resources are to be used in order to increase betterment in life style.


With an increase in awareness, there is a rapid increase in cell phone usage in people from UAE. Cell phones and mobiles for these people is not just a necessity but now it is considered as a multifunctional devise which is more personal nowadays. Cell phones in modern days are more innovative as compared to older day cell phones as all trendy, innovative features as MP3 players, radios, cameras, internet, email, chat, and browsing is available on a single platform. In this case, important roles are played by the adolescents in Arabian countries, especially UAE who have adopted this technology in a great number as well as in appropriation of these technologies being provided to them. In the face of this growing technology an important question that arises is if this growing adoption of this technology has caused major changes in social and political scenarios in UAE (Schvaneveldt, Kerpelman, Schvaneveldt, 2005, p. 342).

Mobile phone technology in Arabic countries is more referred to as Al-Jawal, which in Arabic language means on the move. The technology of cell phones was introduced in the Arabic countries in 21st century and this boom was a result of privatization that ended a long-term monopoly on the map of Arabic countries played by Arabian telecom companies. Studies have shown that ever since mobile penetration has increased in Arabian countries, with 3% penetration percentage in Sudan and as high as 85% in UAE. Report by International Telecommunication Union has highlighted the fact that more than 80% of people in these countries prefer prepaid packages over postpaid contract based packages as these are more suitable in accordance to the demands of household incomes and lifestyles, especially adolescents and teenagers in these countries (Abdulla, 2007, p. 45).

Literature Review

Studies have found out that apart from internet, cell phone technology is widespread in Arabic countries. Recently a survey was conducted known as the Global Insights Survey that has conducted approximately 16000 interviews from an average of 30 markets and has released astonishing results regarding the cell phone usage around the Arab world. Moreover, it needs to be added here that this survey has focused on the trends in cell phone usage in UAE. This survey has indicated that most of the people in Arab world own a cell phone but in most of the cases, women in UAE received cell phones in gifts and men are observed to buy these cell phones. Gifting cell phone is a trend that has mostly been observed in younger people in Arab world especially UAE, as report suggests, these people range between 16 and 20 year olds (Manley, and Putzi-Ortiz, 2005, p. 45). Other than these teenagers it has been seen that gifting cell phones is a common task among elder people ranging between 51 and 60 years of age. In addition to this it has been observed that the Middle Eastern people are willing to pay more price than usual to use cell phones as these days cell phones are not just a necessity for inhabitants of Middle Eastern countries. It has been highlighted in the survey that people from UAE are spending more than 29% extra on changing cell phones and this trend has increased since the last few years. Moreover it has been added that more than one third people in UAE are now using Smartphones (Katz, 2006, p. 23).

This report has been related to unique behavioral changes in the people of UAE that have been used and cashed by cell phone brand managers, technology and marketing professionals as main aim of these professionals is to peak into the minds of cell phone consumers. Report has highlighted the fact that in UAE cell phone marketers have realized that cell phone price is no more a constraint as innovation and an integration of latest technology has played important roles. Thereby cell phone market in UAE has been very successful.

Another main reason that has been associated with an increase in use of cell phones in UAE is mobile music. It has been estimated that most of the people in UAE are more interested in listening to mobile music, either from FM or recorded or downloaded MP3s.  Thereby these two functions have now been integrated into the cell phones thereby there is an increase in cell phone market in UAE. Cell phone brand managers have estimated that an average time spent by a typical cell phone user in Dubai is four to five hours and there is an increased awareness in people regarding cell phones and cell phone technology. It has been recorded as a fact as it is highlighted in the report that more than 83% people in UAE are aware of instant messaging. However an additional fact highlighted in this case is the difference between awareness and ratio of awareness. In regards to awareness of instant messaging, it has been argued that only 9% of people from UAE use the service of instant messaging (Auter, 2007, p. 78).

Report has highlighted that apart from these services, side loading is an additional service, which is now very much popular in people from UAE. Side loading is another cell phone based utility that is is high use amongst cell phone users. Downloading is an activity that has not gained a lot popularity in people from UAE but the report highlights that a great number of people relies in transferring music through cell phones (Barwind, 2003, p. 56).

It has been observed that the rates of mobile penetration are higher now all around the globe but these have accelerated in college students and high school students as compared to general population in UAE. Within many classes of teenagers it has been observed that cell phone has become a ubiquitous accessory and within these teenagers it is seen that one of the main service most frequently used is SMS as within these groups this service is considered as fastest and trendy form of communication. It has been highlighted that more than 90% of teenagers in UAE claim to send texts by using SMS as compared to making calls. Younger generation in UAE is seen to use SMS for chatting, personal communication, and along with these, this service is also used for polling in for their favorite performers in TV shows and contests. Service of short messaging was first launched in Middle Eastern countries in 1988 and since then, numbers of uses have taken a rise. It has been highlighted that as compared to previous years, October of 2005 has been the marking month as highest number of text messages were sent. Studies gathered from the month of October 2005 are similar to previous year’s month of Ramadan showing that more than 65 million text messages were sent and these numbers are till now the highest number of text messages sent (Henderson, Taylor, and Thompson, 2002, p. 78).

UAE has the highest number of cell phone possession in the Arab world. Growth of adoption of these cell phones is so fast in UAE that researchers are now comparing the spread with spread of adoption of television in the past. Television in one time was counted as a ubiquitous communication tool and nowadays cell phones are becoming more ubiquitous surpassing the previous growth rates of television in UAE. One of the main reasons of such a fast adoption of cell phones in UAE is an advancement in technology and this technological advancement has been incorporated in the cell phones that has made them more attractive for consumers placing cell phones at forefront of modern form of communication strategies (Katz, 2008, p. 23).

Religious culture is denser in Arab countries including UAE. Based on a great adoption of cell phones in these countries, it is seen that teenagers also use phones in mosques and religious gatherings, as a result of which religious scholars in UAE generating a great number of religious edicts that prohibit the use of mobile phones mosques. Cell phones have become a part of Arab people’s lives which is now worrying religious scholars in Arab world. Recently, these Arab scholars have generated an edict that musical ringtones on these phones are illicit and unacceptable. In Islam, according to these scholars, music is considered unislamic that makes these musical ringtones unislamic by default. A solution given by Arab scholar for these ringtones for cell phone users is the use of neutral ring tones that are not considered to be illicit (Dougan, 2004, p. 67).

It has been seen that one of the main fact I cultures of middle eastern countries is frequent communication and keeping in touch with family members, business groups and friends in a constant manner ad as a result of this, cell phones have made their ways into cultures of Arabian countries. Culture has a high importance in these countries including UAE thereby cell phones have thereby helped these people in maintaining their social life values. This has been sensed by cell phone brand managers’ thereby they frequently introduce SMS and call packages that can help UAE population, especially teenagers in keeping their social values alive (Kawach, 2003).

Since the introduction of cell phones in the Arab countries, there have been major changes in the social norms followed by the teenagers.  In UAE, there is a strictly division in private and public spheres and these spheres are expected to follow some strict rules which are bound on them. Recently it has been realized that mobile communications and cell phones have blurred these boundaries and rules and regulations are not being followed accordingly. In absence of cell phones in the past, in UAE, public spaces were considered as safer as they were regulated by peer based regulation and constant institution based surveillance. However, nowadays these public places are now penetrated by visual contact mobile devices as cameras and the general population feels less safer in these public places as people from anywhere can take pictures of anyone using camera phones.

Another main aspect that has been highlighted is a changing perspective of private relationship. Since an advent of cell phones, it is seen that a traditional nature associated with private relationships has drastically changed.  Since few years, there have been strict regulations especially keeping in mind the recently behaviors recorded in teenagers, that prohibit the acts of gender segregation and exchanging numbers in public places. But these behaviors in teenagers are now growing as mobile phones are used by teenagers to reach individuals of oppose sex thus reducing barriers of gender segregation and most of all, these phones are being used to snap pictures without consent of the recipient. Highlighting fact that has been disturbing for the higher authorities in UAE is sharing of obscenity in teeneagers by the help of cell phones. Thereby these teenagers have been observed and reported to send these obscene pictures to numbers of unknown people thereby creating social disturbances (Aboud, 2005).

Other than this, important roles are to be played by parents and guardians of these children. Modern day technology is more comprehensive and easy to user by the teenagers as they are well leaned about these technologies. It is observed that parents and guardians of teenagers are not well informed about these advanced technologies thereby they are not aware of the ways these technologies are being used to break social rules and disturb social norms in private and public places. Parents can play more important roles in making these teenagers realize their mistakes as compared to newer warnings. As a response to lesser awareness in these parents, it is needed at the end of higher authorities that awareness programs be started that can help these parents learn more about technologies being misused by teenagers in schools, colleges and public/private places.

Technology that has caused an increase in these kinds of behaviors along with a constant sharing of songs, pictures, video clips and jokes is Bluetooth technology. Seamless and unethical flirting trends in teenagers in UAE have increased by sending files through Bluetooth technology to other mobile phones (Al-Arabiya.Net, 2005). These teenagers make sure that along with camera as an inbuilt technology in mobile, Bluetooth technology should be a compulsion that offers them complete packages. In UAE, in relation to Bluetooth technology, it has been seen that the teenagers have broken public barriers by using Bluetooth technology in shopping malls and public spaces. It has been argued by the teenagers that connecting through Bluetooth technology is much easier, safer and faster as compared to throwing numbers on individuals of opposite genders to share cell phone numbers. In UAE it has been recently reported that a number of teenagers exchanges numbers and then decided about meeting places, later held by mutawaeen which in Arabic countries is referred to as Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Thereby as a worrisome fact, as it is in the case of young teenage girls, cell phone technology is now being used as a tool for making relationships rather than being used for a creative purpose (Abdulla, 2007).

In UAE based shopping malls, it has been observed that rules related to sex segregation are not strictly imposed and are much relaxed. In these public spaces, it is observed that teenage boys capture snaps of young female shoppers by using cell phone cameras. In the light of this, Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have generated rules and warnings against these teenagers to prohibit using camera phone usage in public places. Several apprehensions have been observed as a result of ignorance of these warnings by young teenagers. Recently, higher authorities in these shopping malls have started making frequent warning based announcements to reduce the use of these mobile phones in shopping malls as it is a well realized fact that without the consent of photograph recipient, it is illegal to photograph people shopping in mall. Not only have these higher authorities realized this fact but there is an additional responsibility on security guards in these malls to keep a check and surveillance on younger people using mobile phones and it is important that they are warned and apprehended for taking pictures. In spite of these strict rules, it is seen that Islamic movements have now asked for segregating the shopping malls in order to reduce these events (Katz, 2006).

Based on these events, a new law was passed by the parliament of Bahrain that highlighted on limiting the use of cell phone technology in public places. Thereby use of Bluetooth technology has been now considered illegal. According to this new law, use of Bluetooth technology by any individual can result in lighter terms in prison along with fines as 100 dinars. This law has been specially designed against younger teenagers who use Bluetooth technology to transfer illicit data including unwelcomed emails and text messages to mobile phones of females. Thereby a question arises if laws like this and related can increase manners in teenagers regarding the use of mobile phones. Other than this, an important question that needs to be researched relates to enlightening teenager girls on a great note that cell phones equipped with faster technologies are not to be used for just making relationships that break gender segregation barriers.

From here, it can be deduced that public places are well regulated in terms of teenagers using mobile phones but these kinds of regulations are nowhere to be seen in private places.

Here the main fact that gains an importance is that additional research is required in order to investigate changes in teenage behavior, especially behavior changes in girls, in regards to manners in using cell phones equipped with Bluetooth technology in private and public places, because of strict implementation of mentioned laws. Thereby there is a need to sociologists to conduct additional research on roles being played by these laws (Barwind, 2003, p. 67).

Hypothesis 1

If these laws are successful in making these teenagers realize an importance of gender segregation than illicit events and a general social disturbance in cultural societies in UAE can be reduced.

Hypothesis 2

Increase in awareness levels of parents can play important roles in stopping teenagers in using their cell phones for breaking barriers to gender segregation.

Data Collection and Analysis

Hypothesis of this paper is if laws in emirates can cause changes in teenagers’ attitudes while using the cell phones equipped with technology that are misused to reach individuals from opposite sex. In the previous sections, two main hypotheses have been present. These hypotheses are important in relation to the topic highlighted in this paper. Laws in Arabic countries have been recently designed so as to warn youngsters and teenagers from using cell phones in an unethical way. Their parents as activities can better control these teenagers and indulgences that these teenagers have can be monitored and controlled by parents rather than national laws.

In order to conduct a research on these two hypotheses, two surveys will be conducted. One questionnaire will be asking questions about the technologies integrated in cell phones and their recent misuses in public and private places. These questions will be asked from 70 college and high school students in UAE. The second questionnaire will be based on roles that can be played by restrictions and checks imposed by teh parents of these teenagers thereby parents of teenagers will be asked some questions.

Survey will be based on a pen paper format and the survey forms will be distributed in students who are willing to participate in the survey. Questions in survey are related to the hypotheses and these questions are extended to gather more opinions from students in relation to laws and roles of parents. Thereby there are a total of two questionnaires to be distributed in the students and their data and results will be analyzed in upcoming sections.


Surveys were conducted from two groups of respondents and these were compiled. From the first survey that was conducted with college and high school students, it was seen that most of these students owned a cell phone and there was a lesser number of students who do not have the cell phones but they showed string desires to own cell phones based on interesting technologies that these cell phones now integrate. Moreover, the survey highlighted the fact that these students were using cells since a longer period of time. From the results, one of the most important fact that was learnt was the technologies equipped in cell phones that were liked the most in these teenage students. On an average, 89% of the students responded that integrated technologies as email chats and Bluetooth technology were more intriguing for them in modern day cells. Similarity on an average 89% of the students replied that most important technologies that have been integrated in cell phones is Bluetooth and other data transfer technologies whereas further more Bluetooth technology is liked the most in these students. In relation to using or misusing these technologies to share data among friends or individuals from opposite sex, it is seen that positive response was achieved form 78% of the students adding that these technologies can help them gain access to inaccessible. This survey highlighted the fact that these technologies are more intriguing when used in public or private space. Most of the students agreed on the fact that they had camera in their cells adding that inbuilt camera have made teenage based communication easier as they can easily share and snap pictures. For these teenagers, breaking gender segregation barriers is not of higher importance and by the help of technologies integrated in their cell phones there is no hesitation in breaking these barriers. Almost 90% of teh students responded positively when asked about using these technologies to break gender segregation barriers. One of the most important aspect that was observed in these results was a positive response that was gathered from almost 90% of the students when asked about ethical implications of breaking gender segregation barriers. Additional responses gathered from these students were that reaching individuals from opposite sex is not to be considered unethical, as it is their social and human right. Apart from this, when these students were asked about rules related to using these technologies in public and private spacing, very less percentage of students responded in positive thereby here it can be concluded that these laws are not well informed to a majority of the students and these laws are in a need to be publicized to create awareness in these students so as to make them realize that using these technologies without the consent of other people is unethical.

Second survey was carried out with parents of these teenagers. A total of 70 parents were interviewed and it was made sure that they had at least one or two teenage children. From the survey analysis it was learned that all teenage children from these parents was using a cell phone. It was added by these parents that it is unable to stop these children from using cell phones as cell phones is more than just a necessity these days, it has become a need integrated very much into the daily life styles. They added that teenagers use their cell in a very frequent manner, with 98% of the parents responding in positive. When these parents were inquired about their opinions about the emerging cell phone technology, almost 89% of the parents responded positively arguing that for a better well-connected social life, cell phone has been proven a great technology.

Contrasting responses were obtained from the parents when asked about their awareness about these technologies. In an overall manner, only 12% of the parents responded in positive regarding awareness about the technologies in cell phones. More than 40% of parents were aware of Bluetooth technology in cell phones and they added that this awareness is because a constant discussion about Bluetooth goes on in teenagers. Another important question that was included in the survey inquired opinions about these cell phone based technologies as betterment of teenagers and as high as 78% of the parents responded in positive adding that these technological advancements have made life easier for teenagers. A question was out forth arguing these technologies in the position of being used or misused and 78% of the parents responded in positive arguing their positions on camera misuse in public or private spaces. Interestingly, lesser positive responses were achieved in the case of parents being aware of rules prohibiting misuse of these technologies in an unethical manner and supervision of teenagers.

Analysis of Results

From the two surveys, important information has been gained in order to find answers for hypotheses in this paper. From the first survey it was learned that students are  more than just intrigued about using cell phones, not because these offer more connectivity options, but because of the fact that innovative and much faster communication tools are now inbuilt in these cells that makes communication between friends and family a lot easier. Among the technologies that were most attractive to these teenagers included Bluetooth mostly along with email and chatting. These teenagers are not aware of usage of cell phones in public and private areas and using inbuilt cell phone based technologies for reaching individuals from opposite sex is considered ethical and a right they hold.

Survey that was conducted from the parents showed that they were less aware of rules, laws pertaining to misuse of these cell phone based technologies by these teenagers, and they considered cell phone as a need in these days that has simplified life. Moreover, lesser parents were aware of different kinds of technologies integrated in cell phones and the ways these technologies are being used by teenagers.

Thereby researchers although have highlighted the fact that laws and rules have been designed in order to minimize these misuses by teenagers to break segregation barriers but there is more research needed on a sociological perspective that can investigate into any changes that have been brought about by these rules. The results from survey suggest that teenagers are not well aware of these rules and consequences of misuse of these technologies as defined by these rules.

As far as roles of parents is concerned it is important that an awareness in increased in parents that can help them be aware of the technologies integrated in cell phones adding the ways these technologies are used and misused at various levels by these teenagers.


Arabic world is using cell phones in higher numbers as compared to other countries. Teenagers in Middle Eastern countries especially UAE are known to have the greatest access to cell phones. Research has suggested that laws and rules have been recently designed as well as implemented pertaining to misuse of cameras and Bluetooth technologies in public and private technologies that can cause harm and social disturbances in society. Moreover these rules are in a need to be publicized in order to increase awareness in teenagers in UAE that can make required changes in teenagers attitudes. Moreover, important roles can be played if parents of these teenagers are more aware of technologies integrated in these cells keeping an eye on these teenagers in ways these technologies are used.


Within Arab communities, cellular communication has offered a wealth of information to teenagers and general population. There has been an increase in prosecution and distribution of mobile media content with an integration of highly demanded technologies as Bluetooth and these technologies have transformed ways in which communications were defined. These changes in communication has brought changes in ways public and private spaces in Arabian world. For UAE teenagers, cell phone is more than a technology as it is seen a tool to break gender segregation barriers. In public and private spaces, rules and regulations are implemented that prohibit the use of these technologies in public and private spaces that can in turn cause disturbances in social circles.


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Questionnaire 1: Laws Brining Any Changes In Teenage Behaviors In Cell Phone Usage



1.      Do you own a cell phone?

2.      Since when do you own a cell phone?

3.      What do you like about the cell phone technology?

4.      What features in your cell phone do you like the most?

5.      What additional features do you think are needed in your cell phone?

6.      Do you make frequent calls or just rely on using text facility?

7.      What data transfer technologies do you like the most in cell phones?

8.      Do you use these data transfer facilities in public or private spaces?

9.      Do you have a camera in your cell?

10.  Have you ever tried misusing these data transfer facilities and in built camera for breaking gender segregation barriers?

11.  If not, have your friends or family members tried to misuse these technologies?

12.  Do you think that these technologies should or can be used in ways to break gender segregation barriers?

13.  Do you think break gender segregation by using these technologies is ethical?

14.  Do you think that there are could be any rules of using these technologies in certain public and private spacing?

15.  Are you aware of such rules?

16.  Are you aware of any consequences that these rules impose for misusing these technologies?

Questionnaire 2: Importance Of Parental Roles And Restrictions


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