If you have children, have you heard of the Momo challenge? This was a supposed series of social media posts targeting children and teens. The challenge asks children to perform an escalating series of dangerous actions ending by telling the child to hurt or kill themselves.
This is just the latest in a series of supposed “suicide games” making the rounds on social media. The Momo challenge itself turned out to be a hoax, but there definitely have been instances of kids and teens being challenged to do dangerous things (like eating Tide Pods) during social media suicide games.
We as adults see social media as a way to share information, keep up with what’s going on with our friends and families, raise awareness, argue about politics and engage in other activities. Sometimes these activities are very beneficial. Think of the ALS ice water challenge that raised awareness and funds for ALS research several years ago.
Our kids, however, are very vulnerable online. Even more than in person, children are susceptible to grooming by predators, bullying and other dangerous influences via social media.
It’s been said many times before but bears repeating. Our children need us to be vigilant in protecting them. They have a hard time knowing whether someone is trustworthy in the best of times. When you take away the body language clues, social media interactions are even harder for them to judge.
Kids are impulsive. Many times they don’t stop to think through the consequences of their actions. Couple that with kids’ natural risk-taking behavior and the anonymous nature of online interaction, and you make it very easy to coax a child or teen into doing something very dangerous.
If you allow your child or teen to have a smartphone or online access, make sure you supervise them. Privacy online should NOT exist when it comes to children. You are not their friend – you are there to protect them, whether they like it or not. You should have all their passwords and the right to inspect their accounts at any time, with no warning, or they are not online.
Many of our children do have access online while at school. Make sure to check with your child’s school to understand their security procedures. Children shouldn’t be able to access forbidden content while at school.
So-called suicide games are only one of the dangers our kids face online. If your child’s behavior changes or they act secretive, be suspicious and investigate their online accounts. Our kids need us to protect us online the way we protect them offline. You insist your child buckle up in the car and wear a helmet when riding their bike, right? You should be as vigilant to make sure they are safe when they are online.
QUESTION: What steps do you take to monitor your child’s online activity?