OPINION: Let’s not feed the internet hoaxes

A mysterious person contacts your child online. They present them with challenges that are innocuous at first, then become more and more extreme, leading your child to self-harm.

Scary, right? It would be, if the Momo challenge wasn’t a hoax.

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No police in this country have had any reports of children committing self-harm due to the challenge. In other countries, the links between self-harm and the challenge are tenuous, if they’re there at all.

In a CBC article, a teacher told the reporter that children learned about the Momo challenge not through surfing on the internet, but from their parents.

Those parents, in turn, found out about the challenge from their friends on Facebook, a place that’s: 1) just as likely to spread non-truths as virally as truths; and 2) isn’t where modern youth spend most of their online time.

This isn’t the first time there’s been a panic about these type of challenges. In 2016, there was the Blue Whale challenge, which had the same modus operandi as the Momo challenge and about the same weak link to actual self-harm.

With all that said, the internet can be a dangerous place for children. It’s a place they can accidently go down a wormhole of extremist content, a place where people want to steal their information, money and identifies. In the worse cases, it a place that could lead children to danger in the real world.

The answer is for parents to be interested in what their child is doing online, to talk to them about how to deal with inappropriate material, to tell them about possible dangers they could face. Parents need to keep up with all the newfangled apps youth are using to community with each other. Parents need to tell their children that posting information and photos online means it’s out there for use for good or bad.

The internet can be a scary place, but there’s no need to make it scarier than it is. We should be concerned about our children’s safety, but we shouldn’t be blowing up these hoaxes all out of proportion.

© Copyright Humboldt Journal

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