There have been numerous reports over the past few days about a new online game, known as the ‘Momo Challenge’. The menacing character, Momo, actually first made an appearance in the gaming world last year and has been worrying parents across the globe ever since. In northeastern Columbia, two children allegedly took their own lives as a result of the Momo Challenge and a 7 year old from Bolton, UK, is reported to be traumatised by threats of Momo entering his bedroom at night.
With her bulging eyes and disturbing grin, Momo is said to be appearing in seemingly innocent children’s videos on YouTube and encouraging them to contact an unknown stranger via WhatsApp. Once the child has made contact, the recipient begins sending violent images with instructions to harm themselves or others and threaten to ‘curse’ them if they fail to adhere.
Although the game itself is allegedly played via WhatsApp, children are apparently being introduced to the character via YouTube and given details on how to contact Momo via WhatsApp. In recent years, YouTube has become an increasingly popular platform amongst youngsters. From high-earning YouTubers to amateur homemade animations, it’s an endless source of entertainment for kids. From a young age, our children are being given access to the video channel and may spend many hours watching game tutorials, toy reviews and those darned surprise egg videos. We are currently unsure as to how genuine the threat of this latest scare is, but the fact that it supposed to be influencing and attracting our children via what we have previously deemed to be harmless videos, is incredibly worrying. It also makes it extremely difficult to detect.
It’s likely that this is nothing more than an elaborate prank, but it still highlights the importance of keeping our kids safe online. If you’re worried about this latest scare or have concerns about the kind of material your child can access online, check out these great tips from Internet Matters that will help you protect your child whilst they are using the internet.
E-Safety Advice for Children
From Internet Matters
Put yourself in control
Install parental controls on your home broadband. Most internet-enabled devices also allow you to set parental controls so you can manage what content your child can see and how they interact with others online.
Set up a user account for your child on the main device they use and make sure other accounts in the household are password-protected so that younger children can’t access them by accident.
Keep your devices out of reach and set passwords on all your internet-enabled devices and don’t share them. Then you’ll know when and where your child is accessing the internet. You can also make sure they’re not making additional purchases when they’re playing games or using apps.
Use safe search engines such as Swiggle or Kids-search. You can save time by adding these to your ‘Favourites’. Safe search settings can also be activated on Google and other search engines, as well as YouTube.
Encourage them to use devices in a communal area like the lounge or kitchen so you can keep an eye on how they’re using the internet and also share in their enjoyment.
Set your homepage to a child-friendly site like CBeebies and create a user account for your child on the family computer or device which only allows access to sites you’ve chosen.
It’s never too early to start setting boundaries. Set some rules about how long your child can spend online.
Be clear what your child can and can’t do online – where they can use the internet, how much time they can spend online, the sites they can visit and the type of information they can share. Agree with your child when they can have a mobile phone or tablet.
The best way to find out what your child is doing online is to ask them to tell you about what they do and what sites they like to visit. If they’re happy to, ask them to show you. Talk to them about being a good friend online.
Use airplane mode
Use airplane mode on your devices when your child is using them so they can’t make any unapproved purchases or interact with anyone online without your consent.
Talk to siblings
It’s also a good idea to talk to any older children about what they’re doing online and what they show to younger children. Encourage them to be responsible and help keep their younger siblings safe.
Check if it’s suitable
The age ratings that come with games, apps, films and social networks are a good guide to whether they’re suitable for your child. For example, the minimum age limit is 13 for several social networking sites, including Facebook and Instagram. Although sites aimed at under-10s like Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin also have social networking elements.
Start discussions about social networking early
Talk to children about the benefits and risks of social networking before they join any sites. Let them know that anything they upload, email or message could stay around forever online.
Keep private information private
If your child does have a social networking profile, teach them to block or ignore people and how to set strict privacy settings. Request that you or someone you both trust becomes their ‘friend’ or ‘follower’ to check that conversations and posts are appropriate.
Stay safe on the move
Be aware that if your child is accessing the internet using public WiFi they may not have safety features active. Some providers are part of family friendly WiFi schemes with filters to block inappropriate content.