Since the inception of the family, children and adolescents have had their particularities in behavioral, personal, and social interactions, due to the importance and risk that this age group carries. Since during this age group, a person's personality is formed and their features are refined. Therefore, content tailored to this group is of utmost importance. Educators and specialists have worked hard to purify this content to be appropriate, serving the long-term vision of the family and society in raising generations according to the standards and regulations desired by parents and governments.


The Evolution of the Content Industry from oral stories to the rapidly advancing digital revolution


This evolution is a start to content targeted toward children, which has seen significant development. It started with oral stories passed down from parents and grandparents, then moved on to drawings and paper books containing stories, poetry, news, and experiences. It then transitioned to audio and visual content with the spread of radio and television, and finally to our current era marked by scientific advancements, digital invasion, and social media that have inundated communities and individuals. This has brought forth new and diverse forms of content directed toward children and youth. However, this has also resulted in a problem where the compass has been lost, and control over content creators has diminished as they operate without supervision or accountability, citing personal freedom and open space without restrictions. This has been facilitated by easy access to recipients, the availability of communication networks and mobile devices, and the bypassing of traditional stages of idea dissemination through authoring, printing, and paper publishing. Simply possessing a modern phone and internet connection makes them "content creators", as per the label that has become prevalent, often overlooking the significance, scope, and responsibility of this term towards different segments of society, particularly children. Hence, the need for greater responsibility rests with entities involved in educating this segment of society, including childhood and youth institutions, publishers, and other channels dedicated to children and youth. The problem and responsibility can be addressed through two key questions that encapsulate the issue at hand:

What is the appropriate content for our children, and how do we present it to them?


First: What do we offer our children? What is appropriate content for them?

 Here, we will talk about content and substance, as the term has spread incorrectly in social and media circles, almost exclusively associated with social media while ignoring what is present in books, the press, and direct personal interactions. Perhaps the reason for this is the dominance of social media and its capture of attention. It can be disheartening to see someone being invited to major conferences and crowded lectures as a "content creator". We are shocked when we find out that this famous guest is merely a creator of short clips on "YouTube", a tweeter on "Twitter", or an "Instagram" and "Snapchat" influencer, without any evidence of intellectual, literary, or artistic value in their professional career or content. We do not even find proficiency in the Arabic language, which is the means of communication and content transmission from the creator to the recipient. This misinterpretation of the term has become widespread in all circles, leading to its contraction and the general belief that it is limited to social media influencers and YouTubers only, without considering others.

Due to the injustice that has befallen the term "content creation", there must be an evaluation committee for print, publication, and audio content before it reaches the target audience, to ensure it is consistent with the desired technical, ethical, and behavioral standards. Therefore, we cannot print a book from an author directly, except after an educational decision taken by a specialized committee. This makes the work presented by children's book publishers reliable in terms of content, while also meeting high technical specifications that are attractive to readers, as we are in an age of quality and competition where there is no room for poor-quality products.

Second: How do we present the material to the child?

In answering this question, we must look for the best way to deliver the content, whether it is in a readable book, an audiobook, a TV show, or through digital tablets and social media platforms. Here, there is a great responsibility on the part of publishers, who have not developed their work and kept up with new developments, limiting themselves to producing content in paper books only. They must change according to advanced technological developments and create digital content parallel to paper books in several ways, including:


1. CD-ROM: The distributed disk with the book includes the book's content and images for the child to read digitally as well as on paper.


2. Visual presentation: By converting the story from the book into a visual display (short video), it is more exciting for children than the book and is suitable for their desires and inclinations.


3. Internet website: Where publishers reserve a site on the international information network, and through cloud storage, they can convert the content in the book into a fixed digital file that children can enter to read and view without a paper book or television broadcast.


Is not hidden by researchers and parents the abundance of the content presented in modern communication media (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube...) and the ease of browsing them even by children under the age of five sometimes. It is amazing to see a child under ten years old talking about football stars, TV series heroes, social media activists, or skilled cooks as if he were an expert strategist in this matter. This leads to wasting time and effort and causing eyestrain from screens, with little useful benefit for these children. Here lies the responsibility of parents in organizing their children's time and directing them towards useful content for their present and future.


It is necessary to confront the negatives and contain the bad and destructive content.


When looking at the content produced in most of these channels and media, we find little beneficial content for children and a lot of harmful waste that children should not be exposed to. Painful examples of this include a video posted by a mother who is an Instagram activist, showing her seven-year-old daughter listening to songs from over twenty singers, and asking her, "Who is this?" The child answers correctly based solely on recognizing the voice, without seeing the image. However, this child does not know the name of the capital of her country, the names of the months of the year, nor the colors of her country's flag, as evident from the comments of viewers who interacted with the video. This serves as clear proof of the shallowness of content creation, and how children are burdened with more superficialities and negative influences than they can handle. In another dangerous phenomenon, we find that creators of harmful content have made it a source of their wealth and a means of earning money. The more followers they have, the higher their financial rewards. Therefore, they strive to attract audiences and followers by breaking barriers, going beyond limits, and deviating from the norm, using pity-seeking tactics to gain membership and likes, disregarding societal values, trust, and intellectual and material well-being, in exchange for money. It is as if the equation has turned the standards upside down, where the more you deceive and mislead, the stronger your fame and the bigger your profits. Some of them even face charges in cybercrime courts for violating fundamental principles deeply rooted in the cultural, religious, and behavioral structure of society.


The pursuit of financial gain and the race for fame and popularity have corrupted the created content.


This is where the danger of content creation lies. e see a large percentage of content creators who have no goal other than appearing and making money and attracting followers. They do without considering the importance of the content they are offering, and the resulting destruction of values and fragmentation of communities, incitement of tensions and divisions, intervention in religious beliefs and political issues, aggressive instigation, spreading false and malicious rumors, forging official pages or hacking them, as well as cyber piracy, espionage, and bullying. Here lies the grave responsibility on the role of children and adolescent publishers, who must screen their content primarily, then keep up with technological advancements and fill the gap that harmful content will fill. There is a saying by one of the educators "Minds are empty vessels, and if we do not hurry to fill them with what is useful, they will be filled with evil and harm, and thus we would have lost our bet on a whole generation...".

Through experiencing the reality of publishing in the United Arab Emirates, visiting book fairs, and visiting specialized children's publishing houses, we are optimistic about the quantity of quality literature for children and adolescents, craftsmanship, and artistic creativity in production and marketing. We also closely observe the noticeable development in keeping up with technology and the digital revolution, as we see paper books being equivalent to digital content, audio-visual books, forums, and websites dedicated to children's literature. This in turn indicates the full awareness of children's book publishers of the seriousness of their work and the importance of paying attention to the content they market. They are based on their educational and ethical responsibilities. In addition to their high sense of the importance of their role in directing the compass in the right direction and containing bad content to prevent its spread. In this context, the role of content creators for children has emerged, through their active presence and attraction of important writers, and their adoption of good literary works aimed at children. Government and private institutions in the UAE and other countries have also contributed through their cultural competitions and awards for children's literature, to fill the gap and balance the scale in favor of the purposeful level of reading and writing content. This has resulted in dozens of good works by writers and poets who create high-quality, purposeful content with their talent and diligence.

Here are some of these government and private institutions in the United Arab Emirates:

  • The Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity in Children's Literature.
  • The Ministry of Culture and Youth Awards in Children's Storytelling.
  • The Arab Theatre Authority Awards in Children's Playwriting.
  • Children's centers and associations in Sharjah.
  • The Abu Dhabi Women's Association.
  • The Women's Renaissance Association, the sponsor of the Sheikha Latifa Award for Childhood Creativity in Dubai.
  • Umm Al Moumineen Women Association in Ajman.

In addition, there are many awards outside the country, including:

  • The Mustapha Azouz Award for Child Literature in Tunisia.
  • The Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation for Children's Literature in Jordan.
  • The Supreme Council of Culture Awards in Egypt, and other competitions implemented by official or charitable bodies or cultural figures in most Arab countries


The collaboration of institutions and relevant entities makes the task successful


Children's books publishers cannot succeed in improving content creation on their own, as it is necessary to integrate efforts with other educational institutions: (Ministries of Education and schools), media entities: (TV and press), social entities: (family and women's associations), and technical entities: (communications, social media platforms) to elevate child-oriented content creation. These entities, each from its position and nature of its tasks, contribute to purifying the content from impurities and detrimental factors. In addition, these entities provide the best possible content, both in print and digital formats, that contributes to the cognitive, artistic, aesthetic, and behavioral development of children, making them aligned with the overall vision of the state and society so that the children of today become the productive leaders of tomorrow for themselves, their families, their country, and their nation.


Sharjah's Leading Role in Creating Content for Arab Children


In conclusion, we cannot ignore the tremendous effort carried out by the Emirate of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Under the wise guidance of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah, in this regard. Through the Rubu' Qarn Institution for Leaders and Innovators, chaired by Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah. The institution includes various centers for children, youth, and girls, and its cultural activities and mass events, publications, charitable and humanitarian initiatives, cultural initiatives, TV channels, digital platforms, the Publishers Forum for Children and Youth, the International Publishers Association, the publishing industry at the Sharjah Book Authority and the Department of Culture, and the annual reading festival for children. These efforts are focused in the right direction, to improve the content directed to the Emirati child in particular and the Arab in general, until Sharjah deserved the crown (Sharjah is child-friendly), through its purposeful mission, and the importance of its leading role in creating content suitable for the Arab child, and keeping pace with the rapid development in this field.