The Sooke School District is encouraging parents to talk with their children about online safety following reports of a disturbing social media challenge that encourages participants to do dangerous things.
On Feb. 27, SD62 sent out an email to parents and guardians, on behalf of superintendent Scott Stinson, to make them aware of the Momo Challenge.
The Momo Challenge involves participants receiving social media invitations on platforms such as WhatsApp and Snapchat to message an account called Momo. The account is linked to an image of a doll with long black hair, large eyes and a scary-looking smile.
The account may send disturbing images and instructions for different tasks that need to be complete along with threats about what will happen if the tasks are not carried out.
Participants can receive the invitation through seemingly child-friendly videos and video games.
“Teachers will remind students about the importance of online safety and to always talk to an adult if they see anything that concerns them,” the email said. “We encourage you to take this opportunity to talk with your child about online safety and screen time.”
The email also offered the following tips to parents:
- Limit screen/device time for your child. One hour maximum for ages two to seven and two hours maximum for ages seven and up.
- Create screen-free times and zones within your home.
- Be aware of what social media your child is using and the channels they are watching.
- If possible, watch with your child so that you are there to explain any questions they may have or to mitigate inappropriate content.
- Talk through information that they may find disturbing.
The message also noted a helpful resource is a website created by Canadian pediatricians called Caring for Kids.
“The safety of students and staff in our district is paramount,” the email read. “If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact your school principal.”
Darren Laur, an internet and social media safety advocate with the West Shore-based company The White Hatter said the challenge is a hoax. He said there were reports of children harming themselves and dying as a result of the challenge but in reality, that isn’t the case.
However, Laur said the images and messages from the challenge can be frightening for children. Laur noted this challenge can be used as a teachable moment for parents to educate their kids about online safety.
“Let’s enlighten not frighten,” Laur said. “It comes down to education but in order to do that parents need to know the information.”