How Can Parents Protect Kids Against Momo Challenge and Other Online Threats

Over the past couple of days, Momo Challenge trended on social media here in the Philippines after a Filipino mom purportedly linked the untimely death of her 11-year-old son to this sinister online activity that belongs in the dark web.

For those who are hearing about it for the first time, Momo Challenge - which is based on the older Blue Whale Challenge - targets young internet users through messages from a hideous character called "Momo" - shown in the image below - that compels or brainwashes them to do acts that can harm others and themselves, including damaging one's skin using a razor blade and even cutting one's wrists.

Momo Challenge

Although many netizens are claiming that the Momo Challenge is a hoax since no messages from the creature have actually been shared by supposed victims online, several countries including the United States, Canada, India, and United Kingdom have asked their citizens to show prudence and be wary of the potential dangers that Momo Challenge can inflict upon the populace.

Since yesterday, I've been receiving messages from my worried relatives and concerned readers, asking me if Momo Challenge actually exists and if they should altogether ban their kids from using the internet. I just tell them that whether Momo Challenge is real or not, we have to remain vigilant against the many threats to the safety and security of kids online.

How do we do that exactly, you ask? Well, UK's National Online Safety agency has provided much-needed guidelines on how parents (or guardians) can protect children against Momo Challenge or any threat online that primarily target our young ones. Here are some of my personal tips for Pinoy parents based on the useful content I read from NOS' official website.

1. Be present.

Many working parents tend to have very busy schedules throughout the week -- and, often their relationship with their children is the one thing that suffers the most because of it. Children who feel alone at home tend to spend more time using the internet and talking to strangers - some, dangerous - just to feel that someone is actually listening to them.

2. Converse with your children about their activities online.

Don't just be physically present for your kids but also be a friend to them who will listen to their thoughts. Ask them about what they are doing online and who they are talking to -- but do it in a warm way that encourages openness and honesty.

3. Warn them about the pit falls of peer pressure.

Viral challenges tend to spread more quickly on social media these days because of friends pressuring each other to perform online tasks just to be cool. According to NOS, parents should talk to their children about not succumbing to peer pressure and not doing anything they are not comfortable with be it online or offline.

4. Tell them that Momo is not real.

Hearing urban legends or unfounded myths can be frightening and distressing for young ones. Even if it seems already obvious, reiterate to your kids that Momo does not exist and as such, the creature can't harm them. Also, tell them to avoid looking for content online that are related to the topic as it will only cause more distress.

5. Tweak device settings and use parental controls.

Research about various ways on how you can monitor your children's activities on Facebook, Youtube, and other social media apps. There are many free and paid software that can allow you to do this. For Youtube, you might want to turn off "Suggested Video Auto-Play" to prevent your kids from viewing clips that they have not directly played or selected.

6. Report and block harmful content every time you see one.

Be an advocate for safe internet by joining the thousands if not millions of netizens who are proactively flagging, reporting, or blocking videos, photos, and messages on social media platforms as well as on Youtube that carry potentially harmful content for young internet users. Creating a safe internet should be everyone's concern.

7. Get support from legitimate agencies.

Here in the Philippines, if you encounter a Facebook or Youtube user who's aggressively sending Momo Challenge messages to other users, report the account or the name of the person to the National Telecommunications Commission or National Bureau of Investigation so they can get on top of the situation and - through it - get to the source of these nefarious online activities. You can contact these government agencies through their official Facebook Pages.

If you found this post useful and informative, don't forget to share it with your friends and family. Let's make the safety of our children, nephews, and nieces on the internet our main concern and top priority.

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