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Question
We'll be moving to Jubail by the end of the year.  I have an adult son that will be coming with us.  He has Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum, so socialization is difficult for him.  To re-charge, he spends time online, doing gaming and role-playing.  He's concerned because he's heard that there are a lot of restrictions on the internet in Saudi.  Can someone expound on that for me?  Is it just information (news, etc.) that is restricted, or is online gaming through game systems (like the PS3) or internet-based gaming platforms like Steam also restricted?

Thank you so much for any information you can give me!!  With autistic people, knowing as much as they can as far in advance as possible helps them to cope.

Answer
My neighbor is a serious computer gamer, he has converted one room of his house into a home for a massive gaming rig. He has no problems with gaming across the net.  I have a PS and I've never had it give me any difficulties in terms of multi-player use.  I also play Second Life, which has never given me any problems.  However, bring all the hardware you might need.  High end video cards, sound systems, cable cards ect., I've not found here.

I've never used Steam, but I would be more inclined to think that if you were going to have problems, it would be because of release restrictions on their side and not the Saudi side.  I've had more problems with release restrictions by the vendor than I've had with Saudi censorship.  When I first started working here 6 years ago, you couldn't download to a Kindle, it wasn't the Saudis, it was Amazon's release restrictions, about 4 years ago that changed, you could suddenly download straight from your Kindle.  My Nook took another year before I could shop and download from the device, but I could shop on the website and side load it, no problem. I have a Surface tablet now and I can't download anything from Microsoft books, videos or music, but the games app works fine as does iTunes.

I've never noticed any censorship on our satellite.  I watch True Blood and Sons of Anarchy on my dish  with all its gory and sexual content.

Of course, this also only applies if you're doing things legally, you can download anything through utorrent, no problem.  The guys in the shops sell pirated PS games for next to nothing, same goes for computer software (the viruses and Trojans are included at no extra cost#.  Onion servers work here #unlike in China# as do many of the pay based proxy servers #most free proxy servers are blocked# as do the Angle Fire proxies.  Newsgroups also seem to work with no interference.  

I've never been able to make any sense out of Saudi censorship.  I've been reading the American Bedu Blog since I came to Saudi, and she seems to be fairly critical of the Saudi government.  But, I started reading the Sand Gets in Your Eyes blog, which I thought was funnier and better written than AB only to then find it blocked.  I've been a Boingboing.net reader for years, when I found it blocked I clicked on the link to email whoever about it and then found the site unblocked a few days later.  

Many things in Saudi are all about looks.  The Saudis aren't fools, they know that their firewall is full of holes #I suspect that your average American high school's firewall is tighter) and they must be happy knowing that it at least looks like they are being restrictive.  

Saudi Arabia

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Mark Lasater

Expertise

All kinds of issues dealing with children transitioning to Saudi Arabia (specifically Yanbu and Jubail). This is particularly the case if your moving from the US. Can I find special ed. services in Yanbu? How do my child's High School credits transfer from or to an American or Canadian school? What kinds of activities are available either independently our through schools in the Yanbu/Jubail area? What are the schools like in Yanbu and Jubail?

Experience

My wife and I have spent the last four years in Saudi, three years in Jubail and one in Yanbu. We both work for the International Schools Group. I'm a counselor/vice-principal and my wife is a teacher. We've worked abroad now for 8 years, spending four years in Taskent, Uzbekistan before coming here. However, as I'm part of ISG, I have access to a vast range of experiences and knowledge. ISG has several hundred employees in seven campuses, if I don't know the answer about something educational, I can find somebody who does.

Organizations
National Education Association(NEA), National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), National Association of School Counselors (NASC)

Education/Credentials
Bachelor degree in Elementary education-Licensed in Kansas to teach math, reading, science, elementary counseling and secondary counseling (12 years experience in the US), Masters Degree in Counseling, Certified Professional Counselor (Kansas Licensed), currently working on an administrative degree. My Wife-- bachelor early childhood special ed., Masters in Early Childhood Education, Masters in Early Childhood Special ed. 8 years working in early childhood Special ed in the US-- We both have course work in ESL, enough for a license endorsement, but we've not actually done it

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