Recently, something called the “Momo Challenge” has been making the news. In it, content that is created for children is supposedly interrupted by a scary-looking character who provides instruction to children about how to complete suicide. Other iterations of this story include similar experiences on WhatsApp or Snapchat. YouTube officials have confirmed that, contrary to press reports, it hasn’t seen any evidence of videos showing or promoting the “Momo challenge” on its platform. If the videos did exist, YouTube officials say they would be removed instantly for violating the platform’s policies. Additionally, there have been zero corroborated reports of any child ever taking his or her own life after participating in this “challenge” that many national news organizations are calling a hoax.
Real or not, this serves as an excellent reminder to be active participants in your child’s online experiences. Here are some tips to help ensure your child is safe online:
• Ensure that you set up parental controls – this will help restrict what your child can and cannot see online
• Don’t turn the other cheek – report and block anything that concerns you online
• Turn off YouTube’s “suggested auto-play” so your children don’t view content they haven’t selected
• Download apps to help monitor your child’s online activity. A great example is “FamilyTime,” available on both Android and IOS. With the paid version, it allows you to customize precisely what content your kids should have access to, set time limits, track location, and more. The software gives you tools to set homework and bedtimes, or merely limit the total time that your kids spend on their phones. There’s also support for geofencing so that you get alerts when that phone enters or leaves a specific area, and location tracking, so that you can see where your child is. You can block or control on an app-by-app basis, apply internet filters, monitor calls and texts, and keep an eye on contact lists. The free version also offers some of those features.
• Download “SafeOregon.” Managed by the Oregon State Police, SafeOregon allows you to report unsafe online behaviors, like bullying, by submitting a screen shot or written report. Reports may also be made anonymously.
Talking to your children about suicide can be scary. The district is hosting community events just for that purpose. The next “Speak Up!” town hall forum will be on March 12 from 5:30-8 p.m. at North Salem High. Dinner, childcare and translations services will be available at no cost.
As always, if you have any concerns about your child’s safety, please let us know so we can help.