Sunday 6 March 2011

Muslim Children and Computer Games

We all have our little bug bears, habits, behaviours, things that disproportionately irritate us or set us off ranting. Well one of mine is computer games. I really don’t like them, boy do I dislike them.
If there is one thing I think too many people waste precious time and money on, it is computer games. I see grown men (and women) sitting there completely oblivious to everything, and more importantly everyone, around them, shooting at things or racing things that are not real. Often more engaged with the characters on the screen or the creatures in their mobile than the person sitting next to them. I see children who are so hooked on their computer games, that if they don’t get a regular dose all hell breaks loose. When I say children, I mean kids as young as 6 or 7, but also teenagers, who really, in Islam are not considered children, but responsible for their own behaviour.

I think of Muhammad Bin Qasim who conquered India at 17 or the numerous young Sahabah (RA) who stood up to be counted, whether during the first days of Islam (Ali RA), on the battlefield (Bara bin Azib (RA)), or as scholars (including the mother of the believers Aisha RA).

As Muslim women, we aspire for our children to emulate the greatness of the Sahabah (RA), the companions of the Prophet (PBUH). We aspire for our children to be as passionate in their faith, as involved in their worship as the Sahabah (RA) were, to have a desire to learn and teach about their faith, to life rich and fulfilling lives in the service of others. I know certainly that this is my dream as a Muslim mother to guide my children to be the best Muslim’s that they can be. Are computer games conducive to this? I don’t think so. Do they prepare our children to be excellent and passionate Muslim’s insh’Allah? I don’t think so! Do they lead to fit, healthy children who are the leaders of tomorrow? I don’t think so anyway (I have images of plump, lank-haired, spotty teenagers in hoodies – sorry I know that’s an unfair stereotype). I think they distract our children and waste their time during those years of their lives that are most important to teach them the right habits and manners and for them to learn as much as possible of the Quran.

Anyway, what set off this rant? This:

I have never allowed my children computer games, apart from ones I pick out on the home PC that I feel are educational (Spanish, nature, Islam etc). My brother-in-law often allowed my children to play games on his mobile phone (Gorgeous is a fiend at whack-a-mole), but aside from that I have not allowed computer games into the house. Until a good friend of mine bought this around for Little Man. He was overjoyed. She is such a good sister and I have so much respect for her, that I couldn’t say no. He was hooked! Apart from being pestered for batteries, fighting with Gorgeous over it and the irritating bip-bip-bipping sound, he also decided he would play with it ALL the time. The overjoyed look on his face was sweet to behold and the fact that I could make him do virtually anything by threatening to take it away was handy, but I was still not happy.

Thankfully kids are easily distracted and I hid it after a few days under the tea towels in the kitchen and he has forgotten about it. I have noticed though, how he pesters my brother for his mobile phone when he gets the chance and the way he lights up at any mention of a computer game.

I know I have to be realistic. If I have a complete ban on computer games, the boys are likely to spend all day sitting at friend’s houses and playing there when they are older. At the same time, I don’t think that if they are praying five times a day, learning Quran, doing their school homework and playing sports insh’Allah, they will have time to play these games. Also, my belief that if you are going to take something away, you have to replace it with something better (Christmas and Birthdays with a fabulous Eid, superheroes and cartoons with examples from the Sahabah, television with outings and fun activities). So what should we be doing instead of allowing our children to play games? I have promised the kids camping with their dad (I might be opting out of that one, I like my creature comforts), trips around England this year, any and every sports and activity club they want and we can afford. All of the kids have been asking to do karate, our favourite Saturday activity is hanging in the library and visiting the museum there. We also have Muslim’s scouts here I think and as I kid I always wanted to be in the Brownies (like girl cub scouts), so if there is a Muslim version, I can’t wait to get them signed up. So much adventure and learning and so little time subhan’Allah. I think I will keep fending the computer games off a bit longer.

I came across this video on the wonderful TED talks site which gives a different perspective:


  1. Children have to play games as they help them in learning. Muslim children have to play those games only that don't have nudity cartoons or images/ pictures are forbidden in Islam. But still they are a mean to teach children.

  2. Asalaamu Alaikum

    Interesting video. My daughter is a tomboy and couldn't stand kindergarten that is why I am homeschooling her now for grade 1. Hmm my kids also play video games but they also go to learn quran twice a week and they also do tae kwon do. I've never lived without a tv and can't really imagine it because we are so cut off from the muslim community as well as the non-muslim community that I am wondering how we would fill all that time. We do read too.

  3. I think its all about balance.
    If you do well at school and study hard, do your homework on time. Make time to learn Qu'ran and learn about Islam. Make time for family, fun & activities, then the odd video game is not going to hurt. (Obviously, dependent on content etc).
    By withholding something from our kids, we only make its appeal greater, so when they finally get their hands on something, it's like an insane rush for them.

  4. Assalam-alaikam,

    Quran teacher,
    Games that don't have nudity cartoons or images/ pictures - I would love to find these, but doesn't seem to be much out there, any suggestions?

    Sis C,
    you have a point about not being cut off from the community. I live in the middle of a very busy, active Muslim community and so have plenty to keep me distracted and occuppied. Have not had TV for ten years and have not missed it, occassionally watch it at mum's (Saturday night) or iPlayer, but not having it free's up so much time which otherwise I would not have.

    Sis Happy Hijabi,
    I agree balance is important and I encourage my children to try educational games, to try to use the computer/internet for research and self-guided learning about things they find interesting. But it's the actual video games - the content on many of them and the way I am seeing some teenagers playing them for hours on end - their parents either have no control, or are grateful that the games are keeping them in the house and not wandering the streets getting into mischief (I have seen a kid big enough to know better wet himself rather than stop the game and go to the loo - that should be enough to put anyone off).