Case Study: The Internet Dilemma

Written by Ekram Beshir and Mohamed Rida Beshir

Case Study: The Internet Dilemma

Imad is 16 years old. He is an average high school student. He lives with his parents and his older brother Mohsen. He spends a lot of time sitting at his computer. Whenever his parents invite him to go to a community activity, he declines their invitation and says, “I don’t enjoy going there.”

One night, Imad’s dad came home early in the evening, which rarely happens because he usually stays late at work. When the mother called everybody down for dinner, Imad answered, “I’ll eat later, I’m busy right now.”

The dad was hurt and said, “Here I am, coming home early to have dinner as a family, leaving tons of work behind, and your son is too busy for me!”

One night, Imad’s mom told him that Ahmad from the community youth group called to inform him that there will be a soccer game on the weekend and asked if he wanted to play. Imad nodded in agreement.

On Saturday, Imad’s mom went to his room to remind him about the game and found him on his computer. “Are you still sitting in front of your computer?” she asked, “Haven’t you gotten tired of talking to a machine yet? You’re going to be late for the game, hurry up and get ready.”

“I’m not going,” Imad replied, “I don’t know anybody there.”

“Go to the game Imad,” his mom said, “you will meet other young people and get to know them.”

Imad looked up and said, ”You don’t understand how it feels when you don’t have any friends. Chat rooms are better. At least I have Mona to talk to. She understands me.”

The mother was shocked and said, ”What’s the matter with you, Imad? Are you spending all this time in front of the computer talking to girl instead of going out and making real friends?”

“So what’s wrong with that,” Imad answered, “I don’t even meet with her.”


Questions

  1. Judging from the case, do you think the way Imad spends his time will help him to have a balanced personality and enable him to build the social skills needed for a healthy life?
  2. In your opinion, why doesn’t Imad want to attend the soccer game or to participate in the community youth group activities?
  3. What are the benefits and harms of spending a long time in front of the computer? Do you think there is a big difference between this and spending long hours watching TV?
  4. Imad didn’t rush down to have dinner with the family when his dad came home early. Why do you think he stayed upstairs? What do you think of the dad’s reaction when Imad didn’t come down?
  5. Imad thought that he wasn’t doing anything wrong by talking to Mona through the chat room. What do you think?
  6. For a 16 year old, the need to be understood is very important. What could the family do to make sure that this need is fulfilled in a proper way?
  7. Suggest some practical ways for the family to help Imad change his computer habits.

Analysis

  1. Judging from the case, do you think the way Imad spends his time will help him to have a balanced personality and enable him to build the social skills needed for a healthy life?

    Imad is isolating himself from interacting with real people by refusing to attend youth activities and family get-togethers. He spends the majority of his time in a chat room, which will not help him to develop the social skills needed in real life situation. For a person to have a balanced personality, he needs to develop in many different aspects: spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually and physically. He needs to have the appropriate amount of interaction in all these areas. Imad is only concentrating on one aspect of his personality, his need to socialize, and he is doing it in a very limited way by spending so much time in chat rooms. To truly develop the social aspect of his personality, Imad must socialize in real life settings. This means going out, meeting people, and taking the risk of rejection when trying to make friends. Since Imad was too afraid to take this risk, he spent time in front of his computer instead, however, he still needed to fulfill his need to communicate and so once he discovered the chat rooms, he delved right in. This kind of socialization is very limited and will not teach Imad about how to deal with people.

  2. In your opinion, why doesn’t Imad want to attend the soccer game or to participate in the community youth group activities?

    It is likely that when Imad goes to such activities, he finds out that most of the youth there already know each other and have already formed their groups of friends. This makes it hard for him since he is new to the group. Unless the group really makes him feel welcome, it will be difficult for him to take the initiative and join in. It is also possible that Imad is not confident in his athletic ability. If he feels that he is not good at sports then he won’t want to meet people while playing sports. He will likely feel self-conscious and worried that people won’t want him on their team because he will only bring them down.

  3. What are the benefits and harms of spending a long time in front of the computer? Do you think there is a big difference between this and spending long hours watching TV?

    Spending a long time in front of computer for reasons other than studying or conducting useful research is not advisable. Though there are some benefits such as becoming very skilled and efficient at maneuvering through the Internet, the drawbacks far outweigh the benefits. Firstly, all the time Imad spends in front of the computer is taking away from time he could spend in other, more useful activities. In short, it is waste of time. Another drawback is that the Internet is laden with moral garbage and it is very easy to run into all sorts of harmful things on the Internet. The more time he spends on the computer, the more likely he is to view the harmful and negative things. Of course, the computer screen also emits rays that are harmful to the eyes. Another potential drawback to spending long hours in front of the computer is that he can become socially isolated and accept this as a natural way to live. This is just to name a few possibilities and is by no means an exhaustive list of the effects of time spent on the Internet. As for the difference between sitting in front of the computer or watching TV, the main difference is that some activities on the computer require the user to not be as passive as he would be if he had been watching TV, but parents should be aware that much of what was available on TV has become available through the internet now. Music videos, songs, lyrics, interviews with rock stars and actors can all be watched, heard, and read on the Internet. Furthermore, these are all more convenient through the computer than the TV because the user can access them at his own convenience and is not restricted by the time that they are available, as he would be with TV.

  4. Imad didn’t rush down to have dinner with the family when his dad came home early. Why do you think he stayed upstairs? What do you think of the dad’s reaction when Imad didn’t come down?

    Because the father is rarely home, the relationship between him and Imad is not strong at all. If Imad doesn’t have a strong bond with his father, it’s normal that he wouldn’t rush down to greet him. Since the father doesn’t go out of his way to spend time with his teenage son, the son doesn’t go out of his way to spend time with the father either. Why would Imad make time for his father if his father doesn’t make time for him? The dad’s reaction was also very negative. Though the father may not mean it, the phrase that he used when describing Imad to his mother, saying, “your son is too busy for me!” has plenty of harmful implications. First of all, when he refers to Imad as the mother’s son this implies a sense of disowning towards his own son. It is very hurtful for any child to hear his parents refer to him as somebody else’s son, even if that person is his other parent. The other implication of this reference is that Imad’s father is blaming the mother entirely for Imad’s behavior and is not taking any responsibility for Imad’s actions himself.

  5. Imad thought that he wasn’t doing anything wrong by talking to Mona through the chat room. What do you think?

    Although the chat room is not a physical room and people are not physically in one place, that doesn’t make it a good place to communicate without worries or regulations. There are Islamic rules and regulations that should be followed whenever there is a need for communication between the two genders. Chat rooms, e-mail messages, and private messaging over the internet are all modern ways of communication which should follow the same Islamic regulations that are appropriate for the intended purpose. So Imad’s idea that nothing is wrong with him spending hours talking to Mona over the Internet is clearly wrong. He shouldn’t do that, as they have no legitimate reason to spend that time together.

  6. For a 16 year old, the need to be understood is very important. What could the family do to make sure that this need is fulfilled in a proper way?

    The family has a big role to play in order to help a 16 year old feel that he can relate to others and be understood. First, both parents, especially the same gender parent, should take an interest in the teen’s life and devote some time to interacting and listening to him. Parents should listen to his feelings, his concerns, what is troubling him, as well as his interests. When the parent is able to listen and show empathy without jumping to conclusions and passing judgments, he learns a lot about his teen and can usually figure out what is troubling him. Through dialogue, discussion, and compromise, both the parents and the teen can reach a mutual understanding regarding issues and concerns. When a teen feels that he can relate to his parents and that they understand his situation, he will come to them with his problems and he will take their advice with lots of consideration instead of going to others who may lead him to do something harmful or foolish.

  7. Suggest some practical ways for the family to help Imad change his computer habits.

    To help Imad have the right habits when using the computer:

    1. Place the computer in an area of common use in the home and not in a closed room. For example, it could be placed in the family room or in a general study room.
    2. Help the teen to have the proper Islamic knowledge regarding personal responsibilities for one’s use of his own senses such as eyes, ears and mind. You can quote the verse from Surah Al-Israa’, “Verily the hearing, and the sight, and the heart, of each of those ones will be questioned.” (Qur’an: Chapter 17, Verse 36)
    3. Help the teen to have proper Islamic knowledge and practices regarding how he spends his time and teach him to take responsibility for his personal growth. You can quote the saying of the prophet PBUH, ”Be keen to gain what would benefit you and seek help from Allah.”
    4. Help the teen to have proper Islamic knowledge and practices regarding regulations related to opposite-gender interaction.

    It is advisable that parents educate themselves regarding these issues. Through constructive interaction, dialogues, discussions, and asking their teen to do some research on the topic at hand, they can all come up with the proper way to deal with any issue. Here is a reminder that the Taqwa of Allah is a must for parents to open the doors of knowledge and wisdom to their children as indicated in Surah Al-Baqarah,

    …وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللّهُ …

    “ … So have Taqwa towards Allah and Allah teaches you” (Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 282)

1 Comment

  1. YoungMama

    Thank you for this excellent case study. This problem is only going to get bigger and bigger as kids have more access to the internet, not only through a computer, but through laptops, smart phones, etc. Parents can’t assume their kids are using the computer properly, and should really be aware that, aside from improper or “non-halal” interactions with others, too much time spent online will affect the child’s behaviour and social skills, as you mentioned above. This is something I’m extremely concerned about as a young mother and would love if you focused on more in your writings.

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