Momo guidance for parents
A dangerous “suicide game” sweeping social media called “Momo” is being used by hackers to harvest information from children on Whatsapp.
As part of the challenge, children are sent messages from a contact with the creepy “Momo” doll face - featuring an exaggerated grin and bulging eyes - as its avatar. This contact then bombards them with messages and encourages them to harm themselves.
Police in Northern Ireland have issued a stark warning about the game to parents urging them to keep a close eye on their children’s online activity.
In a post on Facebook, Craigavon police said: “Basic open source research suggests that ‘Momo’ is run by hackers who are looking for personal info.
The danger lies with your child feeling pressured to either follow the orders of any app via ‘challenges,’ or peer pressure in chat rooms and the like.
Don’t focus only on Momo, but make sure you know what your child has online access to.
“More important is that your child knows not to give out personal info to anyone they don’t know, that no one has the right to tell them what to do, or make them do anything they don’t want to do."
National Online Safety (NOS), a group run by online safety experts, have published guidelines on how to keep your child safe online:
Tell them it’s not real
“It’s important to reiterate to your child that Momo is not a real person and cannot directly harm them,” says NOS.
Also, tell your child not to go openly searching for this content as it may cause more distress.”
“It’s important for you, as a parent or carer, to be present while your children are online,” advises NOS.
“As the nature of each task becomes progressively worse it’s also important to recognise any changes in your child’s behaviour.”
Talk regularly with your child
“As well as monitoring your child’s activity, it’s important for you to discuss it with them too.
“Not only will this give you an understanding of their online actions, but those honest and frequent conversations will encourage your child to feel confident to discuss issues and concerns they may have related to the online world.”
Device settings and parental controls
NOS encourages parents to set up parental controls on their devices at home.
“This will help to restrict the types of content that your child can view, as well as help you to monitor their activity,” the group explains.
“In addition to this, it’s vital that you are aware of your device and account settings to ensure your child’s utmost safety. For example, on YouTube you can turn off ‘suggested auto-play’ on videos to stop your child from viewing content that they have not directly selected.”
“Make sure you talk to your child about how they shouldn’t succumb to peer pressure and do anything they are not comfortable with, online or offline.
“If they are unsure, encourage them to talk to you or another trusted adult.”
Report and block
Parental controls aren’t able to block all distressing content on the internet, so NOS advises parents to flag and report any material they deem to be inappropriate.
They said: “You should also block the account/content to prevent your child from viewing it. Also, encourage your child to record/screenshot any content they feel could be malicious to provide evidence in order to escalate the issue to the appropriate channels.”
If you have concerns about your child’s online safety, contact the safeguarding lead Katie Jarvis in college firstname.lastname@example.org .
If your child sees something distressing and would like to seek help, they can also contact Childline on 0800 1111.