The YouTube Momo Challenge is bringing into question children’s security online.

What the Latest Internet Hoax is Teaching Parents About Their Children’s Online Activity

By Anne Long on Mar 26, 2019
The Momo Challenge, a cyberbullying trend, has caused a ripple in the news with children being exposed to a disturbing character on social media platforms, like YouTube and WhatsApp, who induces them to commit various acts, including running away from home, self-inflicting pain, and more. Its prevalence has parents and professionals concerned about what this character means for children’s safety while browsing the Internet and the different forms of cyberbullying.

“Cyberbullying involves the use of electronic technologies to harm others using hostile, embarrassing and intimating repetitive behaviors,” stated by Prof. Michelle F. Wright from Pennsylvania State University, USA and Masaryk University, Czech Republic, in her chapter, “Cyberbullying: Definition, Description, Characteristics, and Consequences,” which is part of the IGI Global publication, Handbook of Research on Children's Consumption of Digital Media. This premier reference source features insight into research on cyberbullying, social media, and digital advertising, making it an essential handbook for examining how digital media exposure impacts today’s youth and what it means for future generations of young internet users and parents.

Prof. Wright’s definition prompts the association of cyberbullying with the Momo Challenge because of its presence within “distributing explicit videos via various websites.” In many reports, the Momo Challenge character would appear in YouTube videos, on social media platforms, and coerce children into committing various acts, as if it were a game.

“Although some parents did actually monitor their children’s online activities, these strategies were often not effective because parents lack technological skills and they do not follow-up on the strategies that they have implemented,” found Prof. White, after conducting a study of how parents monitored their children’s activities on the internet.

Furthermore, Prof. Wright concluded: “Parents are often uncertain as to what their children do online, and they are even less certain of how to discuss online activities and online risks with their children. Not engaging in active and ongoing dialogue with their children about online activities, increases children’s exposure to online risks,” such as the Momo Challenge.

“There is a need for individual awareness and government policies so that the use of social media can develop for both children and adults,” stated contributors Prof. Tuncay Dilci, from Cumhuriyet University, Turkey, and Prof. Anıl Kadir Eranıl, from Karacaşar Primary School, Turkey, in their chapter, “The Impact of Social Media on Children,” from the publication, Handbook of Research on Children's Consumption of Digital Media.

Other scholars suggest a need for media literacy education in schools to diminish the risk of cyberbullying and digital influence.

However, awareness and education alone will not fully protect children from the influence of digital and social media. Therefore, the question remains on how parents will be able to protect their children’s security when browsing the Internet, as younger generation are increasingly being exposed to the ever-present and connected digital world.
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