A cybersecurity company: Momo challenge is NOT a genuine cyber threat but a malicious joke intending to shock

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I wrote my thoughts on the Momo challenge in my parenting blog. ABC CBN interviewed me on Thursday and it’s shown in Parenting, online experts give tips on how to protect kids from ‘Momo Challenge’.

First things first. Don’t panic. Educate yourself. Fact check. Kids are drawn to internet challenges, It is fascinating to teens, who can be both impulsive and drawn to behavior that draws attention, especially in social media. David Emm, a Principal Security Researcher of Kaspersky Lab Global Research Analysis Team  (GReAT) shares his take on this new trending challenge with some useful tips for the concerned parents.

We’ve seen the Momo ‘challenge’, which is creating panic and hysteria across the internet, cropping up in different countries for nearly a year now. It is important to remember that this not a genuine cyber threat in terms of infecting or corrupting devices or seeking to steal, however, it is a malicious joke intending to shock and unsettle and, as the craze gathers momentum and media hype increases, more people are going to be tempted to scare their friends or, more worryingly, use the meme to harass and intimidate.

For parents, a threat like this can feel overwhelming as their children, who have never known a world without internet, navigate the online world at super speed.

momo challenge

Children are often the first to be exposed to new internet culture content as they seek it out and share it more prolifically. While this does not seem to be an attempt to spread malware, it comes as a timely reminder that as parents we need to maintain close contact with our children’s online world, and that open dialogue is the best defense against both malicious content and cyber threats, as well as not accepting/opening any content from unknown sources.

It is always good practice talk to your children about the basics of internet safety before they uncovered anything sinister. This will help them cope when threats emerge.

Our advice to parents are:

  • Have regular conversations with your child(ren) – make them aware of how to be safe online. Agree which sites are appropriate for them and ensure they understand the reasoning behind this. They also need to know that they can – and should – confide in a trusted adult if they experience something upsetting whilst online.
  • Make sure your child understands they should not ‘friend’ anyone online they don’t know in real life, or add unknown numbers to their contacts – people online are not always honest about who they are and what they want
  • Activate safety settings – settings such as auto-play should be disabled and parental controls can be installed to help prevent children from viewing inappropriate content.
  • Make use of the mute, block and report features – This will protect them from a lot of harmful content.
  • Never share personal information such as phone numbers, address, etc with people you don’t know.

I also recommend a media plan. Parents play a role in guiding children and teens navigate the internet and media environment, just as they help them learn how to behave off-line. No one can decide the media plan for your family except the parent or caregiver but there are recommendations to give you an idea. Use the interactive, online tool so families could to create a personalized Family Media Use Plan at HealthyChildren.org/MediaUsePlan.

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