An Important Message on Dangerous Viral Videos

Many of you may have read recent news stories about some disturbing challenges and videos popping up in popular social media apps and websites. After extensive research, I have felt it is important to share information with our families about two of these issues.

The MoMo Challenge:

Some of you may have seen recent news stories about the “MoMo Challenge”. MoMo is a spooky figure tha t has been said to appear in videos or messages on popular websites and apps encouraging children to participate in “challenges” to avoid being cursed. These challenges include self-harming and encourage children to video themselves doing the acts in order to advance to the next challenge. The final challenge encourages the children to live record themselves in a suicide challenge. As horribly disturbing as it sounds, over the last 48 hours or so, it has been researched extensively by law enforcement agencies and also by the security teams at YouTube and has been proven to be a bit more of an urban myth (similar to “bloody mary” or Slenderman) with little to no evidence of recent circulation or responsible for recent deaths. However, while knowing this disturbing story may be more myth than truth can bring a bit of relief, it is important to understand that this may be topic of conversation amongst children and teens due to its viral nature. In fact, with the viral spread of this story in the last 48 hours, children that may not have ever heard of it now may be intrigued enough to research it on their devices. The image of MoMo is disturbing and may cause young children to become fearful.

I encourage all of you to check out this article on it from CBS: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/momo-challenge-resurfaces-police-issue-warning-to-parents/

Other Recent Disturbing Videos:

Another recent event included a pediatrician finding a disturbing video geared towards young kids giving suicide instructions on her son’s YouTube Kids app. This video was spliced between clips of a completely innocent video of Splatoon (a popular Nintendo video game) and has also been found between clips of Peppa Pig, Minecraft, and Fortnite. This incident is concerning as many believe YouTube Kids to be completely safe for young children. You can read about this video incident here:
https://pedimom.com/youtube-kids-inappropriate-videos/

Apps/Sites These Issues Are Occurring:

While it is certainly probable that these videos and concerns can come through anywhere, these are the apps that seem to be dealing with the most recent concern. Please understand that any social media site or messaging app is at risk for infiltration of such videos/links/etc.

  • YouTube
  • YouTube Kids
  • Fortnite
  • WhatsApp
  • MineCraft
  • Unsecured messaging services such as Facebook Messenger, Instagram Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik, etc.

What To Do As A Parent:

Navigating raising children in this technology-boom world is so difficult. As a parent of a young child and as tech-savvy as I consider myself, even I struggle with truly monitoring and policing the access to technology my child has. I will tell you that these recent concerns have been enough for me to uninstall YouTube Kids from the devices in my home. Understand that apps/site s like YouTube do have security divisions and monitoring, however, there are millions of videos uploaded to YouTube. Anyone can upload a video to YouTube; all you need is a free account that takes seconds to upload, but longer for viewers to report in appropriate content, and longer for YouTube to investigate and remove inappropriate content. While I certainly do not have all the answers, I cannot stress enough to every parent how important it is to monitor your child’s device(s) and usage. Screen time limitations and direct monitoring is important but I completely understand the reality of devices, even with young children. Consider the following proactivesteps for monitoring your child’s device usage :

  • Install a security monitoring app (MamaBear, Verizon FamilyBase, Qusto dio, Net Nanny, etc)
  • Set parental controls on any devices you can (screen time limitations can often be set, blocking of inappropriate websites/content, requiring parental consent for downloading anything, etc)
  • For young children, keep them from leaving the room with devices so that you can monitor or at least hear the content they are watching/using.
  • For older children/teens, require having their phone/device passcodes or passwords. It may not be a popular option, but most cell phones are very secure these days and it is difficult for parents to even unlock the device without a passcode.
  • For children/teens on social media, if not using a monitoring app such as MamaBear or Qustodio, require that your child is either “friends” with you on social me dia or that you have their passwords. Again, not a popular option, but until children are of the age and maturity level to navigate social media (older teens is my recommendation), this is a solid way to monitor activity.
  • Have necessary but difficult conversations with your child/teen. Make sure you are encouraging open communication about your child’s online activity. Foster conversations about appropriate online content, what to share/not share, how to report inappropriate content, etc. 
  • Help develop age appropriate coping skills for your child. Suicide is not a topic appropriate for all ages, but you can help build self-awareness in your young child by teaching him or her that no one has the right to make them do anything they don’t want to door anything that could hurt them. With older children, be open and honest to tough conversations about self-harm, dangerous challenges, cyber bullying, etc. Children and teens often do not understand the long-term effects of impulsive decisions, so talk with them about the long-term effects that can come from self-harm or these dangerous challenges. Talk with them about the effects these types of behaviors can have on those around them that care about them .

When it comes down to it, you as the parent know your child best and what they can handle. It is so easy to remain disengaged in the technology and social media world, but these recent problematic videos are a major reason to get involved, remain involved, and make changes. Here at The Piedmont School, we remain dedicated in ensuring that all of our Panthers have a safe and encouraging environment while on campus. We realize that this is the world our students live in and with that in mind we will be looking at options for integrating a more extensive social media and technology safety program into our curriculum as we move towards planning for a new school year. As always, our school counselor, Mrs. Linn is always available to talk to any of our students if they are having fears or concerns about anything.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me .
With Panther Pride,
Kori Mackall
Director of Communications

 

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