From viral videos to fake news, things on the internet seem to take on a life of their own thanks to the quick and easy share functions on almost every social media platform. However, the Momo challenge, a recurring viral hoax that has recently resurfaced on Twitter, has parents across the U.S. worried about what their kids are really doing online.
The Momo challenge has been circulating the internet and terrifying parents around the world after news of the challenge and the coercive tactics behind the video spread in Spanish-speaking countries late last year. According to the video, if a child contacts “Momo,” she will reply back with a series of increasingly violent tasks, most commonly ending with self-harm. If a child did not complete all tasks assigned, a threat is made to leak personal information online or harm the child.
Although the Momo challenge isn’t nearly as much of a threat as parents in the U.S. think, the fear of what children are engaging in online is very real and so are the risks associated with browsing the web without parental surveillance.
How can I make sure my child is safe online and on social media?
With proper guidance and knowledge, they will be able to navigate safely and avoid any potential dangers.
1. Insist they ask permission
As with spending time outside or going to a friend’s house, have your child request permission to use the internet. This way you know when they get on and for how long they have been online. This will also help prevent any sessions online that you may not be aware of. If they request time on the internet, make sure they have a reason or purpose, like playing a game on a specific website, visiting their favorite social media site or doing research for homework. This will ensure that you know where and how they are spending their time.
2. Set time limits
Scholastic suggests half an hour ofr free computer time after school. That’s a good time to take a break from their books before they start on homework assignments. Once their time limit is up, have them go outside to play or go read book. This will minimize the chance of them getting caught in anything dangerous and ensure they aren’t spending all their free time on the computer. You can even set up a schedule of when your child is allowed on the internet.
3. Monitor computer history
Once your child has ended their session, go through their browsing history to make sure that they haven’t gone anywhere they shouldn’t have. Address unsafe browsing history with your child and if necessary, set up parental controls to block certain websites from the list. Knowing that their actions are being watched will help curb any missteps to undesired sites.
4. Plan some browsing trial runs
Learning by doing is a great way to introduce a child to the internet. By sitting down with them and visiting some safe sites, you can point out potential dangers and show your child examples of sites that are and aren’t age-appropriate for browsing. With you by their side, they can feel free to ask any questions they may have. Not only is this a great chance to teach them about the internet, but you also get to spend some time together.
Here are some best practices to go over with your kids during a trial run:
- No unsafe clicking: Show your child what spam emails and hazardous links look like.
- Practice “stranger danger”: Reinforce the idea that visiting sites and using apps social media platforms where they might talk to or friend strangers can be dangerous.
- Avoid sharing passwords: Let your kids know the consequences of sharing passwords and the dangers of account takeover.
- Always log out: This will keep unwanted visitors from accessing you or your child’s sensitive information while you’re away.
- Don’t give out sensitive information (DOB, whereabouts etc.): Even posting pictures of your vacation can alert online predators that your family is away from home.
- Take advantages of social media privacy features: Educate your child on the safety features of the social media sites they use the most. Even changing your profile from public to private viewing can shield your child from those that shouldn’t be looking at their profile.
5. Switch up your computer location
This may seem outdated as many people have access to the internet on phones, tablets and laptops, but having a desktop computer in a central location is important according to Child Rescue Network. Keeping internet activities limited to a computer in a visible location will not only help you keep an eye on what your child is doing but also help keep the child honest about their internet activities.
6. Set parental controls
As your child is learning how to use the internet, set up some parental controls and blocks for certain sites. This will help prevent your child from stumbling on an unapproved site. For example, you can set up a SafeSearch filtering restriction, which will filter out any unsafe or explicit material. You may even be able to get discounted or free internet security software from your internet service provider.
Originally published 12/22/2015. Last updated 03/11/2019.