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Young Saudis put lives on the line in the name of social media glory

Every rainy season, there is a spike in the number of videos posted online depicting young men engaging in dangerous and risky stunts

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Every rainy season, there is a spike in the number of videos posted online depicting young men engaging in dangerous and risky stunts. Hoping their videos will go viral for social media glory, participants’ recklessness and carelessness jeopardize their lives as well as the lives of others. Despite the risks involved, why do some young men continue to engage in dangerous stunts and are there any penalties for engaging in such risky behavior? Al-Riyadh daily put these and several other questions to the experts.

Col. Abdullah Al-Harthy, spokesman for the Directorate General of Civil Defense, said the directorate sets out annual plans to reduce the risks of rain and floods all over the country and prevent any potential loss of life and damage to vital infrastructure.

“We dispatch our teams to dangerous spots and send out SMS texts warning the public against going to such spots. However, some young men do not take heed of the warnings and insist on driving through flooded streets just for the fun of it while others go swimming in rainwater pools in the valleys,” Al-Harthy said, adding that Civil Defense officers “put themselves in life-threatening situations to rescue these young men when they get trapped.”

Al-Harthy called for imposing penalties on anyone who engage in daredevil acts risking their lives. It is important that all civil institutions and mosques work together to raise public awareness about the dangers of such practices, including the need to report violators to the authorities.

Dr. Menahi Shari, professor of sociology at Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, pointed out that such risky behavior continues every year during the rainy season. “Most young men who are willing to take these risks do so out of their love to get famous. They are irresponsible and careless and do not take life seriously,” he added.

“Young men love to draw attention to themselves and try hard to achieve this, matter at what cost. It could even be their own lives, but they do not care. They want someone to capture them on video doing something risky and post it on social networking websites,” Shari explained.

While blaming parents for their failure to educate their children about the risks of such reckless behavior, Shari called for introducing a Saher-like surveillance system to book adventure-seekers in dangerous weather conditions. As a system, Saher has succeeded in reining in reckless drivers and helped reduce the number of road fatalities due to speeding.

Dr. Taha Najm, professor of mass communication at Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, suggested that anyone who engage in such risky behaviors should be penalized. Drastic action is needed to end these dangerous practices, which also jeopardize the lives of Civil Defense personnel.

“Civil Defense rescuers do a great job during rains and go to great lengths to save careless young men who get trapped in floodwaters as a way to show off and impress others,” he said.

Najm wondered why the media is not focusing on educating young men about the consequences of their risky behavior. The only way to eradicate these practices is to intensify media campaigns targeting all segments of society, he added.

This article was first published by the Saudi Gazette on December 9, 2016.