27 February 2019

Important Online Safety Update

Dear Parent/Carer,

We would like to raise your attention to a disturbing trend which is being accessed through WhatsApp, as well as also remind you of the continuing trend to use Tik Tok.
 
In our recent, and upcoming parent's evenings we are also issuing a copy of Digital Parenting to all parents which provides a guide to help your family live a better digital life.

Momo 

This advice is not intended to cause any panic, however aims to raise awareness of a growing concern and to offer support to reduce risk to children. 

Children receive a message request from an unknown number which then proceeds to send graphic images and instructions to harm themselves and others - or the Momo will “curse them”. The avatar for Momo is a haunting image of a woman with grotesque features and bulging eyes taken from the work of Japanese artist Midori Hayashi, who is not associated with the game. This horrendous challenge has been linked to the death of a 12 year old girl in Argentina. This week reports of this presenting in the UK are growing widely. 

It was revealed on Thursday 21st February that a 7 year old boy from Manchester was a victim of the game. His mum was deeply concerned to find out he had made several of his peers cry by telling them Momo was going to come into their room at night and kill them. She is urging parents to be aware of the shocking WhatsApp challenge and its dangers. 

A mum from Belfast also found the creepy game on her 7 year old daughter's iPad this week.  With urgent warnings being released about the game here is everything you need to know about the 'Momo challenge', including how to prevent your children from seeing it. 

Fox Business Network welcomed parenting officer Titania Jordan to the show to share her advice for keeping kids away from Momo. Although the show aired in 2018, Titania's advice is still relevant.  She recommends maintaining an open dialogue with your children about what they are doing online and the dangers of viral trends like this one. She also suggests monitoring the things your children can access on the internet. This includes activating parental controls and checking search history.  There are services available to allow parents to monitor WhatsApp. 

Knowing the signs of distress in your child, is also a huge indicator that something could be going on behind closed doors. These include falling behind at school, loss of appetite and being agitated after being on their phone.
 
You can watch the Fox News interview which provides some useful advice by following the link below.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGPsUqiVNZg

Further information, including lines of support can be found in this BBC article.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-47359623

Tik Tok 

What is TikTok?
It’s a social media app that gives users the opportunity to share 60 second short videos with friends, family or the entire world. The videos shared range from funny sketches to lip-sync videos featuring special effects. Currently, the app is available in 34 languages with 150 million active users. It is most popular with under 16s. 

What is the minimum age for TikTok app?
13 is the minimum age according to TikTok’s terms and conditions.

Why do teens love the TikTok?
It is a way to express themselves and create short-form video clips to gain a following and build a community around their passions. It also features some great special effects that users can apply to their videos to make them more unique. You can also cross-post the content on other platforms to share it with more people.

What do other parents say about the app?
Seeing inappropriate content.
Parents have expressed concern around the inappropriate language of some of the video posted which may make this less suitable for younger children.
Contact from strangers.
Predators seeking to connect with children is another risk that parents have said their children have reported.

What should parents be concerned about?
When you download the app users can see all the content without creating an account although they are not able to post, like or share anything until they’ve set up an account on the app.  You can set up your account by using your existing Google, Facebook, Instagram account, via email or phone.
By default all accounts are public so anyone on the app can see what your child shares. However, only approved followers can send them messages.  Users can like or react to a video, follow an account or send messages to each other. There is the risk that strangers will be able to directly contact children on the app.  Children may be tempted to take risks to get more of a following or likes on a video so it’s important to talk about what they share and with who.  To delete an account you have to request a code from the app using a phone number.

Does Tik Tok have any safety features?
Like Facebook and Instagram, it has a digital well-being element (which is password protected) which alerts users who have been on the app for more than 2 hours. You can also turn on ‘restricted mode’ to filter out inappropriate content on the app.  Also, you can set an account to be private so that all videos can only be seen by the creator and no one else on the platform. With a private account, you can approve or deny users and limit incoming messages to followers only.  Please note that even with a private account, your child’s profile photo, username, and bio are still visible to all users on the platform.  You can manage who can comment, duet and direct message your child on the app

How to report inappropriate content on the TikTok app?
You can report content that doesn’t follow TikTok’s community guidelines within the app.  You can delete followers or ‘Fans‘ by choosing the fan you’d like to remove and selecting ‘Block’ from the menu of options.

Mr Marner
Assistant Principal

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