Parents Should be Aware of Recent Troubling Viral Trends and 'Challenges' Among Kids
WHITMAN -- Whitman Police Chief Scott Benton, Hanson Police Chief Michael Miksch and Whitman-Hanson Regional School District Superintendent Jeffrey Szymaniak would like to provide internet and smart phone safety tips for parents in the wake of some troubling trends and "challenges" that have been going viral on the internet in recent weeks.
It should be noted that there have not been any reports of incidents involving these "challenges" taking place in Whitman or Hanson, but officials would like parents to be aware.
Last week, the Police Service of Northern Ireland released a warning to parents about the "Momo Challenge," whereby a character named Momo appears in certain YouTube videos and in messages in the WhatsApp smart phone application and tells children to self harm or Momo will put a curse on them. To view an image of Momo click here.
In addition, last week, members of the Southeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council released a statement warning parents about the "48-Hour Challenge."
The 48-Hour Challenge reportedly has teens pretending to go missing for several hours and are awarded “points” for getting mentioned on social media.
"Participating in any of these viral trends or 'challenges' can be dangerous and have serious repercussions," Chief Benton said. "Many of them revolve around people hurting themselves or urging people to harm others. We want parents to be aware of these trends so they can spot any warning signs that their kids may be taking part."
Superintendent Szymaniak said, "I want to to urge parents to always be vigilant when it comes to the internet and smart phone use with their children. We do our best to monitor internet usage and minimize mobile phone use at school. But internet safety starts at home."
Chief Benton, Chief Miksch and Superintendent Szymaniak would like to provide the following internet, mobile phone and texting safety tips from the Department of Justice:
TIPS FOR PARENTS:
- Do teach your child not to post identifying information on the internet.
- Do set a limit for how much time your child can spend online.
- Do keep the computer in a public room in the house.
- Do not have an internet connected computer or device in your child’s bedroom that is left unsupervised.
- Do utilize parental controls provided by your Internet Service Provider and/or blocking software. (Contact your Internet ISP if you have questions).
- Do talk to your children about purchasing “in app” products.
- Do talk to your child about using any location services on their device.
- Do periodically review your child’s computer, emails and messages. You should have all of your children’s passwords and access to their social media accounts.
- Do spend time with your child online. Have them show you their favorite online destinations. Get to know your child’s online friends as you would their real-life friends.
- Learn to navigate the web.
- Do know who they text and email. Most providers have online ways to identify frequent contacts so you can see if someone new appears as a contact.
- Do monitor your child’s access to the internet and texting.
- Do talk to your child about the danger of internet predators.
- Do watch for unexplained changes in your child’s behavior.
- Do NOT hesitate to seek help from law enforcement if you think a predator may be targeting your child.
DON'TS FOR KIDS:
- Do not post personal information online (name, age, birth date, address, telephone number, or school name). This information can be used by others to find out where you and your family live.
- Do not post your picture or pictures of your family online – they can be copied or changed or used to find you.
- Do not send any inappropriate photos or messages by email or text.
- Do not post your plans and activities in a chat room or on your personal website.
- Do not post entries that make it clear that no one is at your home.
- Do not communicate with someone who has made you uncomfortable or afraid.
- Tell your parents or a trusted adult if someone does.
- Do not join online groups or games without talking to your parents.
- Do not meet with someone you met online without first telling your parents or guardian.
- Do not post hurtful or inappropriate messages. If someone else posts hurtful or inappropriate messages -- do not respond, but do tell a teacher, parent or other adult.
- Do not click on any link that you do not know, and you are not sure is legitimate.
- Do not buy any “apps” or “in app” purchases without talking to your parents or guardian.
- Do not enable any location services without talking to your parents or guardian.
DOS FOR KIDS:
- Do remember that people can lie online and say they are something they are not. Someone who says they are a 12-year-old girl could really be an older man looking to harm you.
- Do save messages that upset you and show them to your parents.
- Do share your password with your parents.
- Do visit www.netsmartz.org to learn more about Internet safety. Netsmartz.org has age appropriate videos, activities, and information for students in elementary school, middle school, and high school.
“We want parents to be aware of the potential dangers students may face online and at the same time, know how to protect their children against them,” Chief Miksch said. "There are some dark and dangerous sites on the internet that are readily accessible and can be quickly spread among kids. Parents should not allow unsupervised use of the web for their children."