Dubai: Teen added to WhatsApp group with inappropriate content, bullies; mum sounds warning

The most shocking aspect was how the admin was actively trying to rile up the children

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Wed 29 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 29 May 2024, 11:20 PM

A Dubai mum is sounding the alarm bell about WhatsApp groups that are adding students randomly. British expat Farrah said she heard an unusual amount of activity on her 14-year-old son’s phone when he put it for charging that caused her to go through it.

“I saw that there was a group that he had been added to,” she said, speaking to Khaleej Times. “He had not opened it so there were over 1,000 notifications. I could see that one of his classmates added him and he didn’t seem to know anyone else on the group. There were a total of 626 students on it and it was titled 'Dubai GC'.”


What concerned her was the content of the group. “The messages were quite inappropriate,” she said. “Some of them very mocking others. There was one thread of conversation between a group of students where they were revealing their names, ages, schools and even the area they lived in.”

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However, for her the most shocking aspect of the group was how the admin of the group actively tried to rile up the children. “The admin was trying to antagonise the group members,” she said. “I could see that they were trying to get the students to reveal more details about them and just get a rise out of them. I don’t know who has started this group and for what purpose, but it just did not sit right with me.”

Inappropriate content

Parts of the group chat seen by Khaleej Times contained insults, bullying, name-calling, as well as other inappropriate content. Some had even made plans to meet each other in person. Children as young as 10 were in the group.

Some used the group as a platform to make anonymous confessions. “I told my parents I am sleeping, little do they know I’m watching Tiktok,” wrote one. “I stole a phone [and a] laptop,” wrote another. Some others used it to peddle their goods. “Who wants a Spider Man 2 PS5 [for] Dh200?” wrote one.

According to Farrah, in one chat she saw a girl saying she was 14 to which someone responded saying she was “too old” for them to engage with. She made sure her son exited and deleted the group.

The chats prompted her to get in touch with the mother of her son’s classmate that added him to the group. “I felt it was important to warn other parents of this before something untoward happened,” she said. “The other mother was grateful for the heads up and made sure her son exited the group as well.”

In the past, several parents have complained about such anonymous WhatsApp and Instagram groups that encourage students to share their details with random strangers. “I once caught my daughter following a private Instagram page, purportedly set up by students from her school, that encouraged them to make anonymous confessions,” said a parent, who did not wish to be identified. “Every single post on that page was filled with sexual innuendos and inappropriate language. I deleted Instagram off my daughter’s phone after that. She can now only access the platform on my phone.”

Stranger danger

Educators and experts have repeatedly warned students and youngsters against communicating with strangers over social media. Last month, a school in Dubai sent out an advisory against a social media platform called 'Monkey'.

“Monkey is a platform that allows users to connect with strangers through video and therefore poses several significant safeguarding risks,” the school wrote in its letter, noting that the app was risking stranger danger and could expose youngsters to inappropriate content and posed privacy concerns.

In its advice to parents, the school encouraged parents to have open communication with students about the potential risks of using the app, setting boundaries and monitoring the activity of their children on online platforms.

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