We have received several calls and emails to ask about Momo – How can we protect our students? What do we need to know?
This most recent round of
Like many, I personally spent a large chunk of time on Wednesday and Thursday this week reading articles, clicking links, watching Peppa Pig, and logging into gaming sites. I also visited some schools virtually and in-person to check web history and firewall traffic. If a child searches for Momo on the Internet, they will find images of Momo, will find haunting videos and will likely find the same Peppa Pig video that everyone has been sharing with the spliced content. Much of this content is the same content shared in multiple ways by news sources, school districts and public safety organizations attempting to alert parents and keep children safe.
The Momo Challenge first hit the news cycle in July of 2018 as a viral challenge that threatened harm if you told others that you had seen Momo or did not follow-through with requested actions. Multiple people portrayed Momo through the popular communication service WhatsApp. The viral nature encouraged people to “become” Momo and seek to threaten and scare others, while also encouraging younger children and teens to seek out interactions with Momo on social media.
Momo is not the first viral challenge, and will not be the last. Some viral challenges have been good, raising awareness and funds for specific causes like the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” Other challenges have encouraged children to perform dangerous tasks, run away for 48 hours, or bully others. It is important to discuss peer pressure in relation to viral challenges with our students. This was a good list of popular viral challenges:https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/viral-youtube-challenges-internet-stunts-popular-with-kids
We require students to use and cite multiple sources when doing research at school; why should parents, law enforcement, news outlets, and schools share safety warnings without first performing minimal research? Where should we check to find trustworthy opinions on cyber safety? Some sites we have used to cross-reference viral posts or learn more about online threats:
It is also important to help children know how to report unsafe content and actions. When on YouTube, for example, users are asked to flag inappropriate content – the response is generally very quick! YouTube has also changed several policies in the past week to try and eliminate issues related to Momo and other inappropriate content that may be targeting children. You may see comments gone from some types of videos and may see that YouTube requires you to sign-in as proof of age.
Classrooms should have a procedure in place that allows students to report unsafe sites and unsafe content anonymously. We often hear reports that one student finds something online (at school, or brings from home on a personal device) and shows another student. The offended student is embarrassed and scared to report the incident with staff for fear of getting in trouble also. Students are more likely to report inappropriate sites and content, or gaming sites that waste educational time, if they can report
Children that play online games at home should know how to report inappropriate users or content, and should also be aware that community-generated games may not take action to remove reported content or users and it may be better to leave the game entirely. Many games also have built-in chat components; we always recommend that users do not use their real name or any personally identifying information in their username or chat sessions.
While the Momo Challenge news did not represent an actual threat at this time, online communities are always looking for new opportunities to engage and manipulate youth. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out if you are trying to block specific content, looking at YouTube account settings, or have general online safety questions for