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Video games keep Somali kids away from militants ... and school

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Children are spending more time playing video games and less time thinking about running off to war

Somalia
Somalia

Rise in Somalia gaming cuts down on al-Shabaab recruitment.

The increasing availability of video games in Mogadishu is having some surprising, and perhaps not-so-surprising, consequences in the Somali town; parents say game consoles are keeping boys away from both school and militants.

The Associated Press reports that Somali boys are "bingeing on PlayStation" and other game consoles, but that a happy-by-product of the gaming is that it's keeping boys off the streets, thus lowering their chances of being recruited by al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab, an off-shoot of militant Islamist group al-Qaeda, lost control of Mogadishu last summer. Under their rule, recreation, like watching movies or playing video games, was banned. Since Al-Shabaab was booted from the city new stores, a theater and even a video game shops have started popping up, AP reports.

Notoriously, Al-Shabaab recruited children from schools and the streets to fill their ranks. One report said about 50 schools were closed in Somalia because of the heavy recruitment from their classrooms, according to the AP.

But with the availability of video games in Mogadishu, children are spending more time playing and less time thinking about running off to war.

The most popular form of gaming, it seems, is going to an arcade of sorts and paying to play on a console with friends. The shops are so popular some draw hour-long lines of children.

The Associated Press story is a fascinating examination of an unexpected way video games can be a positive influence, in this case, by helping children be children.