Momo Was a Hoax but Some Internet Dangers Are Real: Common-Sense Approaches to Keeping Kids Safe Online
At this point everyone has had their fill of warnings about the Momo challenge. According to the premise, a scary creature pops up in YouTube videos of Peppa Pig (for example) and instructs children to take a series of actions, including harming themselves. Although the image representing Momo is a real figure that made an appearance in a Japanese art show years ago, it has been clearly shown that the Momo Challenge is a hoax.
Even though Momo isn't anything to worry about, the viral hoax does serve as a good reminder that parents shouldn't just hand over a screen to children and leave them to their own devices. There are some common-sense steps parents can take to help keep their children safe from real internet dangers lurking online.
According to Save the Children:
- Parents should:
- Talk openly with their children about what they do on the Internet, be involved in selecting the websites and games that young children access, and observe their use of the technologies as often as is possible.
- Set clear boundaries with their children regarding which kinds of content and online behavior are acceptable and which are not.
- Teach their children not to divulge their private information on the Internet or phone messaging. Because young children may not understand what information should be considered private, they must be told explicitly not to provide their phone numbers, home addresses, dates of birth, etc., even when asked. It is a good idea to set up a separate email address – and perhaps even a separate identity, including a false name, address, and other information – that children and their parents can use when registering for games, websites, or other digital tools.
- Warn children to NEVER respond to strangers who contact them with unsolicited questions or comments on the Internet or (if they have a cell phone) to answer an “unknown” number.
- If children have access to their own devices, such as phones and tablets, parents should set permissions so their children need approval before downloading new applications.
- Determine when their children are allowed to create accounts for social media or other communication technology platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Twitch, etc. – and require children to “friend” them, so they can observe their children’s public social media personae. Parents should also require children to share their device and account passwords in order to review the content of their younger children’s applications.
- And – most important of all – parents must encourage children to inform them when they encounter content online that goes beyond the boundaries the parents have set and discussed with their child. Because (unfortunately) it is not possible to anticipate the full spectrum of inappropriate content or communication that children may discover while online, they should be coached to tell their parents when something online simply feels wrong.
How do you teach your children about internet dangers and being safe online? Share in the comments.