What can we do to put an end to the latest internet crazes and potentially dangerous challenges?
The simple answer is: Nothing. We can’t put an end to them. As long as the internet and social media exist, these things will always spread. Even before social media, we had similar via text messages and before that, chain letters.
However, there are steps we can take, as parents, to help prevent the mass fear and hype of these crazes, the latest being the overly sensationalised ‘Momo Challenge’.
You may have seen my Facebook post about this a couple of days ago, but after seeing more and more sensational headlines pop up in my newsfeed over the last 24 hours, all accompanied by the viral ‘Momo’ image, I felt compelled to elaborate on my original post and offer some suggestions on how we can deal with the hype.
Don’t fall for the clickbait. Be sure you’re sharing facts, not fiction.
The news coverage on this latest internet phenomenon has been ridiculous. Yes, there are bad things on the internet and yes, we need to be aware of them. But please, please, stop fuelling the media by sharing misleading headlines and potentially false reports. The majority of articles I have read on the matter are full of vague words and phrases such as “allegedly”, “reported”, “said to be”, “believed to be”. Whether a craze or a challenge is real or a hoax, sharing unverified information just intensifies it.
A Samaritans spokesperson told The Guardian: “These stories being highly publicised and starting a panic means vulnerable people get to know about it and that creates a risk.”
“Currently we’re not aware of any verified evidence in this country or beyond linking Momo to suicide,” said the Samaritans spokesperson. “What’s more important is parents and people who work with children concentrate on broad online safety guidelines.”
Don’t discuss the latest craze with your kids. Discuss general internet safety instead.
Communication from Hampshire Police has been sent out to parents via schools and they are advising parents not to raise awareness of the issue to children and young people unless necessary.
As I said before, I do believe it’s good that parents know about these crazes and can watch out for any signs of our children being affected by them. However, I also think a lot of adults are helping to spread the fear and hype, not only by sharing unverified reports across social media, but by speaking to their kids in detail about the latest particular issue, with some even admitting to showing their own children the creepy doll-like Momo image so they know what to look out for.
Kids being kids will then talk about it in the playground to others who may not have previously heard about it, but may be intrigued and want to look it up. The hype goes on.
Wouldn’t it be better to speak to our children on the risks of social media in general, rather than highlighting one particular craze? The internet will tire of Momo soon enough and the next problem will pop up. Our children need to understand and be prepared for situations where they may encounter something dodgy online. These things don’t always come with a scary face.
A spokesperson for the NSPCC said:
“The constantly evolving digital world means a steady influx of new apps and games and can be hard for parents to keep track of.
“That’s why it’s important for parents to talk regularly with children about these apps and games and the potential risks they can be exposed to.
“The NSPCC publishes advice and guidance for parents on discussing overall online safety with their children, as well as promoting Net Aware – the UK’s only parental guide to social media and gaming apps.”
There are loads of online safety tips at NSPCC.org.uk