By now you have probably heard about the “Momo Suicide Challenge” on YouTube. Moms were all over Facebook in a state of panic. Children everywhere were subjected to interrogation by their parents. IPads and tablets were whisked away so that YouTube could be removed. Me? I’m not worried at all about momo.
I’ve Never Trusted the Internet
I’ve already written at length about why we dislike screens here. Many times I have been criticized for this. The worry seems to be that my daughter will be unable to function in this technologically advanced society if I don’t let her have an IPad, but I am not at all worried. Aside from the obvious worries about screens, I think a child of any age should not have unregulated access to the internet. When I say unregulated, I mean letting your child just “surf around” and see what they find. No search is “benign” when it comes to the internet. I do not let my five year old “surf the internet.” If you are relying on parental controls to help regulate, you will find that it’s simply not enough. I can hear you saying, “But they’re going to see it anyway. You can’t keep your child in a bubble.” No, I cannot keep my child in a bubble, but you can be sure that I will do everything in my power to protect my child from harmful images and content like momo. The internet is designed primarily for adult users.
No YouTube Here
Sure, kids love this platform, but I have to wonder why parents think it is safe. Just like Facebook and Instagram, YouTube is a social media platform. This means that users are permitted to upload lots of inappropriate content. Would parents allow their children to have all access to Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook? Absolutely not! YouTube should be treated the same way. Many parents would be shocked to find out that there are actually people out there creating seemingly benign videos that actually turn out to be pornographic or violent. These videos are TARGETED towards children. Am I running to let my child find her own videos on YouTube? Not a chance. The only safe way to regulate it, is to watch and surf together. Period. There are lots of other ways to enjoy videos that are much safer.
Never underestimate the value of using technology together. Although I don’t like screens, we don’t live under a rock. My child now has a Leap Pad and she loves watching movies and TV shows just like every other kid. The difference? We watch together. Whether it’s playing an app or watching a show, I find that my daughter always has questions. Since I am there watching, I am able to give her immediate feedback and address any concerns or fears. Little children can find things frightening that adults wouldn’t even anticipate. When you can assure your child that their fears are unfounded that fear doesn’t take root. Now, I realize that I have an easy life as a mom of one (read more about that here). If you are unable to watch or use technology together, you can absolutely pre-screen the shows or stick to safe zones like PBS. Channel surfing can also be tricky if you have all access cable. Rated R movies are shown at just about any time of the day.
While there is no question that the Momo Suicide Challenge is both frightening and disturbing, parents do not need to live in fear. Understanding that there are people out there who target children should remind us that the internet can be a very dangerous place when children are able to access it without a parent to guide them. Being present and engaged with what your children are watching will be an important step to protecting them from terrifying things like this.