Morocco World News
Fez, May 7, 2012
Soap operas have a huge negative effect not only on adult audiences but on another segment, children, who have become addicted to such programs. In our Moroccan society, children spend most of their time watching TV, mostly unsupervised. Even when they are supervised, their families don’t see soap operas and series as a threat or danger to their kids as long as they are at home and they aren’t making any noise, being busy with the events on the screen.
You can go on the top of a roof and see all the scattered satellite dishes on every house, even in the poorest ones, which reflects the importance of TV in the Moroccan home. Thus, Moroccan channels need a drastic change in the programs they provide for their audience. In many rural areas, TV series are a basic component of life and they have a great impact.
This week, I read in many Moroccan online news outlets and newspapers about the 9 years old Moroccan boy from a small village near al-Yusufia who hung himself to death three days ago after watching a suicide scene from the Turkish soap opera Han?m?n Çiftli?i (English: Lady’s Farm) translated into Arabic as Matensanish (English: Forget me not). This should make us wonder about both parental observation of their children as well as the content of the programs provided by Moroccan channels for their audience. His parents who weren’t home found him dead while hanging by a rope from the ceiling.
This is a tragic incident that should be a wake-up call to every parent to stop underestimating the power of TV, and mainly soap operas which are usually regarded as violence-free. When children are indulged in the surreal world created by foreign soap operas, they find it hard to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not. Imitation becomes the only key to experience what’s being broadcasted on the screen.
Actually, we have had many wake-up calls to start taking action and supervise much more our own children. Similar incidents that happened in the Arab world make headlines every single year.
In 2009, a 12 years old boy from Ras al-Khaima in the UAE committed suicide in an attempt to imitate a character from a Turkish soap opera, Dumu’ al-Ward. The Emarati daily al-Emarat al-Yawm reported that the boy committed suicide in his room. He wrapped a belt, which he tied to the window’s curtain rods around his neck, hanging himself and dying on the spot. He was found later by his family.
A year later, another 12 years old boy from Tunisia died imitating the same scene from the same series, as the Tunisian daily Assabah reported.
In 2011, another 12 year old Iraqi boy from a village in Southern Iraq committed suicide while imitating a similar scene he watched from the Turkish series Wadi a-Diaab. He tied a rope to the ceiling of his room with the help of his little brother. He put his head in the hole of the rope and his feet on a bottle. Once he lost his balance, the boy was dead.
Another incident, that might have nothing to do with Turkish soap operas but it definitely has a lot to do with the impact of violence on TV and video games on children, is the case of the 4 years old Saudi boy who killed his father with a gun a few weeks ago. The boy asked his father to buy him a Playstation but when the father came home from work without the toy, the boy took the father’s gun and with one shot right in the head, the father was dead. The boy wasn’t aware of the danger of his action and he probably thought that his father would come back to life like in video games.
How can a 4 year old kill his own father? How does he know what a gun is and how to use it? Many questions come to mind over this incident that can be described as heartbreaking.
Children need a lot of attention, care and supervision. Never take for granted that they are fine as long as they aren’t making any noise while watching TV and giving you temporary peace of mind. Childhood is a critical period of age that requires vigilant parents who practice the most appropriate ways of parenthood to secure their children’s safety from the outside world and from themselves.
Children shouldn’t be sitting in front of the TV watching soap operas and television series. They should be playing, enjoying their childhood, making noise if necessary, drawing, reading, and doing extracurricular activities that shape their minds, intellect and lives.
Nidal Chebbak is a Moroccan national. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in English Studies in 2009 after completing a research paper on Advertising Moroccan Women in Moroccan Magazines, in addition to a Master’s degree in Cultural Studies: Cultures and Identities in Morocco from the University of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah in Fez; her MA thesis entitled European Women through the Eyes of Moroccan Travelers 1611-1919. She produced a short documentary about Moroccan Students of English Perceptions of Freedom and a group documentary project about Moroccan Youth and Political Participation. Nidal is also the vice president of the Moroccan Association of Friends of English (MAFE) and a news correspondent for Morocco World News in Fez (Email: [email protected]).