Have you heard about the Momo Challenge? Basically, it is a picture of a girl who is in desperate need of some volumizer and under eye concealer, who creeps into video games and YouTube videos like Peppa Pig to command kids to do some pretty scary things. Reports have stated that Momo starts with silly challenges like “wake up really early” and then it turns ugly really quickly. Momo may want you to videotape yourself cutting your arms or legs or jump off a roof. As the challenges intensify, the last thing Momo pressures you to do is to commit suicide.
I tried to ignore Momo, thinking she would go away like the Tide Pod challenge or the hot pepper challenge, but it didn’t. Just like strep, she just kept popping up. Full disclosure- my kids are on tablets or phones a decent amount of time. Whether it is working on a school project, or watching videos of the best NBA dunks, our screen-time policy is flexible. So, I worry about what they see online. Yes, we monitor the sites. Yes, we check search history. But nothing is foolproof. So, when Momo reared her ugly head again I decided to take action and it was a #momfail of epic proportions.
The conversation went like this:
Me: Hey, you guys ever hear of the Momo Challenge?
Boys: No, what are you talking about?
Me: Well, there is a lot of talk of this character that pops up on video games or videos and tells you to do stupid stuff.
Boys: (suspiciously) um, nah. Never heard it.
Me: (not believing them) It looks like this – (shows a picture of Momo)
Oldest: What the heck! I wouldn’t look at that!
Youngest: (blood-curdling screams) Mommy No! Stop it NOW!
So, instead of confronting a perceived problem, I instilled fear.
My youngest slept with a night light, camping light, and all the stuffed animals. He was so scared that I had to lay with him as he slept. After I ninja crawled out of his room so he would not wake up, I wanted to find out better ways to protect my kiddos online that don’t involve giving them nightmares. Here are a few:
- Be Present- Sit with your child while they are watching an online video or completing homework online. Let them show you their favorite sites and share with them what you like to browse on the Internet.
- Set Rules for Internet Use- There are hundreds of apps available to monitor online use. Find an app, but also explain the restrictions to your child so that they understand.
- Talk about Peer Pressure– Online challenges are nothing more than basic peer pressure on a grand scale. Equip your child with the tools to avoid succumbing to these pressures. Encourage your child to talk to you about temptations on and off line.
- Report and Block- The old adage “See Something, Say Something” rings true. If something seems odd, report it to the appropriate authorities.
- The Internet is Still a Great Tool– Despite all of the challenges, weird videos, and creepiness, the Internet is a wealth of knowledge that is increasingly becoming a primary teaching tool. As parents, we must balance the positive and negative in the best interest of our children.
What tips do you have for online safety?