Momo Challenge and Cyber Safety

This week social media and news reports have been filled with stories on the radical “Momo-Challenge” which has said to have infiltrated even Youtubes own children’s channel. This coupled with a history of 3rdparty individuals taking child cartoons like Peppa-Pig and turning them into horror shows filled with blood and violence that children are stumbling upon and several other instances of dangerous challenges popping up either in advertisements and in the middle of videos teaching children how to “slit their wrists sideways for attention or vertically to end it all” as one video shows or challenges where children are to get up in the middle of the night turn on the gas oven with the door open and then light a match has many parents worried. These videos have also infiltrated popular games such as Roblox and Fortnite.

A few news sources as well as Snopes are declaring these stories as false and going viral because of parental shares but several people are sharing clips of videos online showing these exact videos and more not just the image of Momo.

Regardless, of whether or not the challenge is real we know that there are instances of inappropriate content including pornographic, dangerous and hypersexualization of children occurring on Youtube. This is an opportunity and wakeup call for parents to be more vigilant with their childrens online experience. I wanted to take some time today to share some resources and information to empower you as a parent to take the precautions that feel right to you to protect your children. I know myself after viewing all of this my husband and I spoke and tightened up our internet security and restrictions here at home. Experiences such as these are great reminders to us to stop, pause and re-evaluate how we are doing things and decide if we need to make adjustments or not. 

So let’s get started. First I think it’s important for parents to understand how Youtube works and how there is not as much screening as one might think, even in the children’s restricted app. 

First of all, if you log into Youtube kids you can block certain channels, so for instance you can choose to just watch the PBS station that has just shows produced by them which is pretty safe and we know would be good content. So the videos here are fine, but if you are using a free account which still shows ads there are chances that the ads can be bad and some bad content has been snuck into the middle of advertisements which is partially how they have infiltrated Youtube Kids because Youtube does not view or screen every single video or ad submitted. It’s up to the viewers to flag inappropriate content which they even state inside the directions on how to use the parental controls in Youtube kids.

If you choose to purchase a plan that removes the ads then there is a good chance that by removing the ads and selectively curating specific channels for your children to watch that the content should be fine.

Looking at the general Youtube channel, users are able to upload any videos they wish. Now, if they go against Youtube users terms and guidelines then the videos can be removed and potentially the user banned but the only way this happens is if the video is reported and flagged and it can take up to 12 hours for the video to be looked at by a moderator and removed and there have been several reported instances of inappropriate content being flagged repeatedly by parents and not being addressed for several moths by Youtube. In fact in a press release last year Youtube vowed to hire more people over the next few years to try and screen more videos, they acknowledge they can’t address it all fast enough. If the persons account is banned there is really nothing stopping them from then creating another account and the cycle can continue. The same is for ads uploaded to Youtube. There isn’t a human screening and monitoring every advertisement uploaded into the platform. So while you can pay for a no ads account on the main Youtube channel you still can’t filter out inappropriate content and videos adequately. 

The best situation is to only allow access to Youtube kids in your home on a paid account that removes ads and then using the parental controls carefully curate a list of channels that you approve your child to watch. 

So how do you protect your children from Googling something and not having something inappropriate come up? Well that is where it gets a little tricky but the good news is that there are some amazing companies out there creating 3rdparty software to help parents not only regulate and block content but also something that is HUGE these days is control, track and minimize screen usage

f you heard our recent podcast episode where I interviewed Dr. Colleen Carroll who is one of the leading researchers and advocates for screen obsession and who helps parents not only moderate their children’s screen time and usage but TEACH them how to use screen time appropriately, you will hear us discuss the biological and psychological effects of too much screen time for kids. It’s a really great interview and YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE PODCAST EPISODE HERE

So you want to protect your child from accessing inappropriate content and you want to moderate screen time, so how do you do that? Well that my friends is where a program like Qustodio (Click Here) comes in. So let me be transparent, I am in NO WAY affiliated or paid by this company. This comes from my own research as a parent trying to find ways to empower my girls to use screen time independently and in a healthy way (*cough, cough* SHAMELESS plug for our www.EmpoweredGirlApp.com *cough* which provides a safe and empowering online experience parents can feel good about) and to be honest I don’t want to babysit and monitor them constantly, its unrealistic, but I want to block content, selectively give them access to and I want to know what they are doing online. Well this program DOES THAT ALL! Seriously, its really incredible and the price is pretty fantastic. I think for peace of mind and to try and help your children be empowered to use screen time in a positive way and create time boundaries etc without being the bad guy this software empowers parents to do just that!

For parents of older children who might have a cell phone now with a data plan to text and message people I recently learned about this other software called Bark (CLICK HERE) now Bark is a parental control application but the capabilities aren’t as expansive as Qustodio but what I LOOOOOOOVE about Bark is this new technology they have that screens the content your child is looking at writing and connecting with. So it Connects to 24 platforms to monitor text messages, emails, and social activity for signs of harmful interactions and content. You get automatic alerts via email and text when Bark’s algorithms detect potential risks, so you don’t have to comb through every post and text. And then the alert comes with information and expert recommendations to make it easy for parents to talk to kids about digital dangers and other sensitive online issues.

So far as per their website they have prevented 16 school shootings and 10 THOUSAND severe self-harm situations. 

Like if this isn’t an A-HA moment and win-win situation I don’t know what it is. As a parent myself these are things we ALL worry about and it makes me feel so good that there are companies and people out there creating content and software to empower us as parents to keep our children safe! 

I highly recommend that you check out both platforms above and the information in this email and then take some time in the next few days to really evaluate your child’s technology and social media situation and ask yourself, “What can I do better here?” “Where do I need to improve, tighten boundaries and re-evaluate”? Listen, if you have just been giving your child an iPad or tablet with no restrictions this email is NOT about shaming. This is about providing you with information to look at how you are currently doing things in your life and taking a conscious pause to really think and reflect on if this is the route you want to continue to take or do you want to change things up from how you are currently doing things with the new information you have?

It’s funny because this is so connected to the foundation of our work which is asking really good questions and teaching girls to ask themselves the same. Looking at how we are doing things or thinking about things and then asking ourselves do we want to continue to do things this way or knowing now what we know do we want to make a shift or pivot and moving from there.

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Maria Fuller

Founder | Thought Leader at Raising A Powerful Girl
Maria Fuller is the Founder and Thought Leader behind RaisingAPowerfulGirl.com an online education and community platform that connects professionals from all over the world to parents raising girls to educate and empower them on their parenting journey with the goal of fostering Independence, Leadership and Strong Personal Identity in Girls so they can change the world. Maria is also the founder of the EmpoweredGirlMovement.com and their online web application for girls called the EmpoweredGirlApp.com for Clever, Creative and Inquisitive Girls which focuses on the 6 tenets of Mindfulness, Gratitude, Purpose, Mindset, Relationships, and Humanitarianism. Her work has been featured on Google and Yahoo news, the Rachel Ray show, numerous online publications and she is a contributing writer for Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global.

Maria Graduated from Stony Brook University Medical Center with a BS in Health Science, minor in Emergency and Disaster Management and concentration in Women Studies. She holds a Certificate from MIT in Leadership in Times of Disruption and A Certificate in The Science of Parenting from UC SanDiego. She worked as a critical care paramedic for years until a permanent injury on the job caused her to change her life direction with work but not without first teaching her of the importance of Independence, Leadership and Personal Identity which are the foundations of her work.

She is a mom to two little girls and has spent nearly a decade working with women of all ages to help shed unhealthy beliefs and breakdown stereotypes surrounding pregnancy, motherhood, body image, self-esteem, parenting, women in leadership and much more. Maria is a frequent speaker and presenter on women’s leadership, girls empowerment and the role social media and technology plays on girls self-esteem, confidence, and brain health.