The Momo Challenge and your child: parenting in the Internet age

The dangers of the Internet are all over the news this week as parents report characters popping into their children’s viewed content asking them to do unspeakable things, along with intense media coverage of Internet hoaxes like the Momo Challenge. While newsworthy, however, this issue is not new. From content that is inappropriate to content that is downright terrifying, like it or not, the Internet is wild, unpredictable, and can be dangerous for our kids.

Bundoo readers know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero screen time (other than video chatting with family) under the age of 18 months. From there, it recommends no more than 60 minutes per day for toddlers and preschoolers of high quality-programs that are co-viewed with parents to make sure the content is safe and to increase the possibility that learning might occur. An example of this might be a half hour of content on PBS Kids. The problem, of course, is that parents often use that time to do other things such as meal prep or household chores. As children age, programs like YouTube Kids become more interesting. And more dangerous.

App builders of children’s platforms often attempt to safeguard their product—they embed filters for inappropriate content that attempt to block it. Unfortunately, Internet predators are savvy, often bypassing filters. If their content is found and blocked, they just attempt to launch it another way. The point is, unless you are sitting with your kids while they hop onto popular apps, you cannot know for sure that what they are watching is safe. Period.

This is one important reason why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a family digital media plan, including screen time limits and limits on where media can be viewed. The AAP also recommends frequent co-viewing, so that parents of older kids still watch and use screens together with their child. The idea is parents should supervise kids online just like they would in any play situation. Fortunately, there are great resources that can help parents decide the best content for kids. For example, Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) is a great place to start when researching apps, movies and TV shows for kids. There are also pediatricians dedicated to the safety of children who are getting the message out that even “safe” media has its risks (pedimom.com).

Of course, parents do have another option. Screen time is not a necessary part of a child’s life. Not at age two and not even past that.

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