I am writing this letter because there has been some talk in our schools about an online phenomenon known as the “Momo Challenge,” which includes disturbing images and messages relating to violence and self-harm.
To the best of our knowledge, this is not a real threat and there have been no reported instances of harm to children connected to this apparent social media challenge.
Regardless of whether the “Challenge” is real or a hoax, the image(s) and conversations surrounding the “Challenge” may still be frightening to students.
In an ever-changing digital landscape, we encourage parents to be vigilant in monitoring your children’s social media and online behavior. The “Momo Challenge” presents an opportunity to have a conversation about what your children encounter online. We invite you to join us in sharing the following messages about internet safety with your children:
● The importance of digital citizenship: We encourage our students to be responsible digital citizens by safeguarding their personal information and avoiding inappropriate contact with strangers online. If disturbing content is ever found online, we ask that students show it to a trusted adult so that the appropriate measures can be taken (i.e., blocking or reporting the material).
● Avoid spreading rumors: The “Momo Challenge” is being widely discussed by students all over the world, but many of the reports of “hacked” videos, games and apps have not been substantiated. We encourage all our students to be cautious about spreading rumors, and to exercise good judgment and critical thought when sharing information with others.
● Seek help if you are in need: Whether it is an elementary school student who is fearful of something a friend told them, or an older student who is vulnerable to messages about self-harm or violence, we want each and every one of our students to know that there is support available in each building. If your child could benefit from speaking to a counselor, please don’t hesitate to contact the office.
As always, we invite you to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have around this issue. Common Sense Media offers some helpful tips for parents about how to talk to children about online “challenges” or fads in this article: “13 Online Challenges Your Kid Already Knows About.”
Thank you for partnering with us to keep children safe.
Dr. Marie Wiles
Superintendent of Schools
Tips from the GCSD Tech Department
For Apple users: Starting with iOS 12, Apple began offering parental controls using Family Sharing with Screen Time. Family Sharing creates a parent-child structure. Using Family Sharing, a parent/guardian can create separate Apple IDs for up to 6 family members, including children under the age of 13. Family Sharing allows sharing of content and Apple services and provides centralized parental controls with Screen Time. To get started with Family Sharing, click on this link. Begin by either creating a new Apple ID for family members or inviting member(s) with an existing Apple ID. Once Family Sharing is enabled, a parent/guardian can control content & privacy restrictions in Screen Time on the child’s device or centrally from the parent’s device. Using Screen Time a parent can block or limit specific apps and features and create a curated list of allowed websites in Safari. A parent can also restrict explicit content, purchases, downloads and control privacy settings. To get started using parental controls on iOS, click on this link. In addition to preventing access to unwanted content on a child’s device, parents can schedule Downtime for the device. During Downtime, only apps that you choose to allow and phone calls will be available. For more information about the Screen Time app click on this link.
For a list of devices compatible with iOS 12, follow this link and scroll to the bottom of this web page.
For Android users: The online site, Tech Advisor shares a step-by-step guide for setting up parental controls and restrictions on Android devices.
Guides for parents
Common Sense Media is a reputable resource for parents and teachers. The nonprofit website provides unbiased information, advice and innovative tools to help adults harness of the power of media and technology as a positive force in children’s lives.
Whether you’re trying to figure out if a new app is safe for your teen or if a popular game includes violence or profanity, Common Sense Media’s Ultimate Guide tackles them all: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/parents-ultimate-guides