Various media outlets are saying the Momo Challenge is a viral hoax. So, are children around the world being told subliminally, through graphic, frightening images, to kill themselves? Whether or not MOMO is true, the reality is, keeping your kids safe from hateful online messages and predators is more difficult and complex than protecting them from Momo Challenges, Tide Pod Challenges and the like.
Platforms such as YouTube and Instagram, have no effective means to police their programming in a meaningful way. It’s more questionable sincerity. Any curating of video takes place after it has been uploaded —after people have viewed it. The result is a constant stream of harmful, inappropriate content, laden with advertising. Kids spend hours crossing a digital street in which they are targeted by the speeding traffic of potentially damaging and manipulative content. They must dodge algorithms that promote extreme and/or graphic images, while watching out for cyberbullies and predators.
And that’s just the overtly bad stuff. There is a steady, insidious manipulation as well. Silicon Valley executives are not exactly an altruistic group. In fact, when what’s good for your children clashes with an ability to turn a better profit, your children have often lost. That’s why neuroscientists are brought in to not just make video games and apps that appeal to children but are addictive. YouTube executives and social media big wigs are quick to talk to the media about what actions they are taking to remove harmful images and content. Meanwhile, each child’s data is collected and sold and used to make money.
The Momo Challenge may be a viral hoax, but there are plenty of other dangerous, disturbing things found on YouTube and other sites that are not fake. YouTube is particularly vulnerable to the manipulations of people who enjoy being cruel. It’s not realistic in most cases to say, “I’ll never let my children use the internet.” Wouldn’t that be nice? Except so much learning and school work requires students to use the internet and with land lines going the way of rotary phones, mobile phones have become a standard. The reality is, the digital world is here to stay, and our children are its youngest, native-born citizens.
As parents we all need to hold YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – and other online entities threatening the safety of children– accountable for what they allow on their platforms. We need to push companies to be better digital citizens and do a better job of preventing, policing and putting a stop to harmful content.
Until then, we must all do what we can. You wouldn’t let your young children cross a busy, dangerous street alone without holding their hand and guiding them across. Don’t let them navigate this digital world alone. Keep a hold of their hand now and be the protection the internet does not offer. With or without Momo lurking in children’s programming, the internet is no safer or less dangerous than it was before.
Digital Citizen Academy’s Home Program is designed to help parents raise responsible digital citizens, while protecting your children from the dangers of technology. Our online program for the home provides you with the tools and resources to support your family and address the specific issues our kids are facing in their school years. Learn more here about our advocacy membership and what it includes. Take action to protect your children today.