The Momo challenge- Help for parents

By now you’ve probably heard a lot about the Momo Challenge, a deadly online game that’s been scaring the daylights out of kids - and parents - around the world. The object? To  drive players to self-harm or suicide with the threat of making their private information public.

At the centre of this sick digital blackmail plot is the character Momo - a creepy bird-woman with bulging eyes, stringy black hair, and a boomerang-shaped mouth.

Momo is purported  to hack into users’ mobile phones, once they engage with her, then send disturbing and graphic photos. Users are then challenged to perform ‘dares’ including  acts of self-harm, or face the consequences of having their secrets and private information shared online.

Is there a ‘real’ Momo involved? Was there ever? Experts believe the current panic is simply the result of kids scaring other kids (and themselves) by copying and sharing creepy images and videos from 2018.

But that doesn’t mean that the fear isn’t real. Or that Momo hasn’t been a useful disguise for a handful of cyberbullies of all ages.

We spoke to cyber expert and child psychologist Jordan Foster from ySafe to ask about this potentially deadly game and find out what information we should be sharing with parents and children

 Q : What are your thoughts about the Momo challenge?

A: The Momo Challenge presents two key learning opportunities for us as people in a digital community. The first is that fact-checking is essential before investing our worry and concern into something we’ve read.  Much of what is posted online is done so by unreliable sources who are seeking attention or notoriety. People’s trust can be easily exploited when information shared implies a threat to our children’s safety.

Secondly, the relief about the ‘fake news’ nature of Momo should not deter parents from being vigilant about what their child is looking at online. There is an abundance of inappropriate and harmful content posted on platforms like YouTube and YouTube for Kids. Pornographic content and violent videos continue to seep into these video platforms that are beloved by our kids.  This dark Momo challenge therefore serves as a timely reminder that we need to be active in our child’s digital lives, and safeguarding them every time they enter into the online world.

 Q : What advice would you give to parents?

A: Fact check, always. What’s more, make sure you fact check to credible sources of information. Blog posts, social media comments and YouTube videos uploaded by unverified authors are not valid sources of information.

Use parental control tools to block access to inappropriate or unsafe websites and apps. One of the most important features of a parental control tool is the report that parents receive about what has been blocked, and WHY. Make sure you regularly read the reports about why an app or website has been blocked. This helps improve your knowledge and keeps you up-to-date on current cyber safety threats.

Talk to your kids about how information is posted on the internet. Teach them the difference between credible news websites and people sharing opinions or experiences. During the talk, discuss with them what they can do if they ever feel scared or worried about something they have seen online. Kids feel empowered and less distressed by online content when they are equipped with information about how to protect themselves.

Q : What advice would you give to children?

A: There are some great people on the internet posting some amazing stuff, but sometimes there are nasty people who post things that try and scare and upset us. We’re all lucky in that we are in control of what we look at and what we don’t. So if you ever see something that seems strange, upsets you or asks you to do something you think is worrisome, turn it off and talk to a trusted adult about it.

Hoax or not, many parents have asked us the best way to keep their kids safe from this type of content, so below you'll find questions and answers from some of the most common queries we've received from Family Zone customers

 How do I block Momo videos on YouTube?

Videos that contain Momo are not listed as Momo videos; instead, people put Momo into other, innocent-looking videos. YouTube has been marking videos including Momo content as being "identified by the YouTube community as inappropriate or offensive to some audiences". And that "viewer discretion is advised". If you have Restricted mode on for your child's account this content is not available to them, however this will block all uncategorised content also. To do this:

  • Log into portal.familyzone.com

  • Click on Settings in the left-hand menu

  • Select Age Profile Controls

  • Change the first drop-down menu to the age profile of the child you want to adjust and the second to Search and Streaming Media and restrict access to Mature and Uncategorised YouTube

 Can I block Momo in apps?

The majority of activity around MOMO has been reported via Whatsapp, so blocking that app is a possible solution. To do that:

  • Log into portal.familyzone.com

  • Click on Settings in the left-hand menu

  • Select Age Profile Controls

  • Change the first drop-down menu to the age profile of the child you want to adjust and the second to Social Network and Games to block Whatsapp

 

momo2The Momo image - featured left - is a cropped picture of a sculpture by Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa.

It first appeared in a series of Facebook posts in July  2018 challenging readers to message a certain number - variously recorded as having Japanese, Colombian and Mexican country codes.

 

 

 

The online world can be a scary place for kids. Let Family Zone's acclaimed parental controls shine a light in the darkness. Sign up now for a free one-month trial!

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Topics: Parental Controls, Screen time, youtube, smartphones, WhatsApp, suicide, self-harm, momo

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