With all the recent news about online videos or games threatening children to do dangerous activities, parents are becoming more concerned and involved in their children’s online presence. Though your child is just at home, accessing the Internet opens him to a vast virtual world and you may not always be there to ensure his safety.
Ironically, Safer Internet Day was just last 5 February.
Making the headlines now is YouTube, where several mums have reported watching videos with suicide instructions in it. Dr. Free Hess, the paediatrician and mummy blogger behind PediMom, found a clip with a man instructing kids how to slit their wrists and saying: “Remember kids, sideways for attention, longways for results.”
— PediMom, Dr. Free N. Hess (@thepedimom) February 24, 2019
Suicide is a sensitive topic for kids, and one that must not be promoted in any way. In Singapore alone, the number of children contemplating suicide is on the rise. Samaritans of Singapore, a suicide prevention centre, reported that 77 children aged five to nine, and 4,563 aged 10 to 19, called their hotline from 2015 to 2016—a staggering increase from 14 and 2,366 in 2012 and 2013.
A spokeswoman from YouTube said in a statement to The Washington Post:
“We rely on both user flagging and smart detection technology to flag this content for our reviewers,” (Andrea) Faville added. “Every quarter we remove millions of videos and channels that violate our policies and we remove the majority of these videos before they have any views. We are always working to improve our systems and to remove violative content more quickly, which is why we report our progress in a quarterly report and give users a dashboard showing the status of videos they’ve flagged to us.”
The original video has now been removed from YouTube and YouTube Kids, but the danger still lingers, not just on YouTube but on other platforms, too.
Reports of Momo Challenge, where kids using Facebook or Whatsapp are challenged to do tasks leading to self-harm and suicide, have been circulating in many countries and spreading fear among parents and children.
Along with anecdotes, however, are claims that the deadly challenge is a hoax. YouTube has also stated it has not seen evidence of the challenge uploaded on the site.
We want to clear something up regarding the Momo Challenge: We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube. Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies.
— YouTube (@YouTube) February 27, 2019
Whatever the truth is behind these controversies, let this be a warning to guard your kids’ online activities as much as possible and to take advantage of safety features that let you filter and block potentially harmful content.
Here are other resources worth checking:
- Keeping our Children Safe on the Internet (The Cyber Security Awareness Alliance)
- A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Children Safe and Smart Online (The Media Literacy Council)
- Parental Controls on Smartphones and Other Devices (Internet Matters) — the site offers step-by-step guides on parental controls not only for devices but also for entertainment sites, social media, and search engines
Below are some tips to help protect your child from being exposed to dangerous content:
- In times like this, prevention is always better than cure, so educate your child about the dangers of the internet. Walk them through the types of content they should avoid and remind them to let you know if they’re unsure of what they see online. Agree on some rules and post them near the computer.
- Monitor your kids’ online activities by checking their browsing history and placing the computer or electronic gadget in areas that you can see (living room, instead of the bedroom).
- Before letting them use video streaming platforms, like YouTube and YouTube Kids, make sure that all the security features are turned on.
- Remind your children to never share personal information in online networking sites. If you can, connect with your kids on social media sites too so you can monitor their posts and activities.
- Set limitations on their screen time and do not allow them to go beyond it if only for recreational purposes.
- If possible, check with your internet provider how you can block inappropriate websites and content.