Late last week, accounts about something called the “MOMO Challenge” spread across news media, and parents everywhere had to learn not only what it was but just how much of a threat it presented. Fran Kompar, the director of digital learning for Wilton Public Schools, sent out her newsletter with an update informing the school community about the challenge–including a reassurance that it’s just a hoax.
The newsletter also presented valuable information about the use of social media by children and announced an upcoming presentation in the district by an internet safety expert, Scott Driscoll, who has visited Wilton in prior years with his very well-regarded talk.
We’re reprinting the newsletter below:
FOR PARENTS AND STAFF
This month we are focusing our attention on information related to social media and your “tweens.” Questions have arisen regarding the use of social media for children under the age of 13 as well as reports of a “MOMO Challenge.” The MOMO challenge refers to a scary image that pops up on certain apps. At this time, there is no evidence that this may have occurred but is an opportunity to talk with your children about internet safety.
Right now, there appears to be no cases of a child hurting him or herself in the U.S. as a result of the Momo challenge, but authorities say keep communication lines open with your children, says WFSB reporter Jennifer Lee. An article in a recent issue of Forbes, “Don’t Panic, What Parents Really Need to Know about the MOMO Challenge” by Andy Robertson, states that:
…It is essentially a viral ghost story. Rather than sharing warnings that perpetuate and mythologize the story, a better focus is good positive advice for children, set up technology appropriately and take an interest in their online interactions. (Anderson)
In an effort to provide parents with positive strategies to ensure children learn to model good digital citizenship as upstanders in their online community, please read the following and review the important highlights with your children:
Know the Laws
Most people have heard the [phrase], ‘this website/app is NOT for children 13 and under.’ This statement directly relates to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). We can summarize the laws as follows:
Children’s’ Online Privacy Act: Websites that collect information from children under the age of 13 are required to comply with the Federal Trade Commission Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The State of Connecticut has a more robust law that governs the use of all apps/websites that students use, which must comply with the Connecticut Student Data Privacy Act.
Children’s Internet Protection Act: The CIPA law, enacted in 2000 and amended in 2011, requires that all schools adopt an Internet Safety Policy that restricts minors access to harmful content and requires the education of students on digital citizenship.
Know The Appropriate Ages Of Social Media
Limit your child’s access to websites/apps that are only appropriate for children 13+ ages. Talk to them about what they use and how they use them. Know the “terms of service” of the apps that they use. Many popular social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, require children to be 13+. Some of the most popular apps with children require that they be even older:
- WhatsApp now requires students be at least 16 years old.
- House Party states that no one under the age of 13 should use the app and parents should be aware if a teenager is below the age of 18 and using the app.
- TiTok – Although the age on the site indicates an age requirement of 13+, Common Sense Media recommends an age of 16+.
- Musical.ly or Live.ly – Lyrics are often appropriate for 18+. The terms of service are unclear but seem to indicate that although the age requirement is 13+, they do not recommend it for anyone under 18.
Use Parental Controls
Common Sense Media provides an excellent article on using parental controls to set screen time, privacy settings, filtering of inappropriate content at home and guided access on cell phones: The Ultimate Guide to Parental Controls by Caroline Knorr.
Scott Driscoll, the president of Internet Safety Concepts, shared some important internet safety tips:
- Any social media site should be set to private.
- When you receive a follow request, before approving you should ask yourself, ‘Who is this person and why are they so important that I want to communicate with them?’
- Parents should be aware of what apps children are using and why they’re using them.
- Parents should be communicating with the children about their technology use. If parents continue to communicate with their children, hopefully children will communicate any concerns that arise through social media or technology.
- Research online stories for facts.
Driscoll will be presenting in district to students and parents on Monday, April 1:
8 a.m. Cider Mill Students
12 p.m. & 1:10 p.m. Middlebrook Students
7 p.m. Parent Presentation (hosted by the Cider Mill and Middlebrook PTAs, open to all)