PNP joins call for parents to monitor kids’ online activities

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

March 1, 2019, 1:27 pm

MANILA -- The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday joined other government agencies in urging parents to monitor their children's online activities.

PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) Director, Police Brig. Gen. Marni Marcos Jr., made the reminder after the “Momo Challenge” and other online challenges have gone viral on social media, as they reportedly lead to self-harm and suicide among the youth.

“While we have yet to determine where the ‘Momo Challenge’ originated and who are the individuals perpetuating it, we encourage not only the public, but also other law enforcement authorities to form part in spreading awareness to prevent this purported suicide game from affecting and causing harm to our children,” Marcos said in a statement.

He also advised everyone to immediately report any untoward incident involving the “Momo Challenge” to the ACG, through hotline 414-1560 or by visiting the nearest Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit or any police station.

The “Momo Challenge” first made headlines in July 2018 when it was noticed by a known YouTube user. Later, a 12-year-old Argentine girl was reported dead after she was allegedly persuaded to do self-harm and take her own life by a grotesque-looking female figure through the mobile messaging application, “WhatsApp”.

However, authorities have yet to find a link between the trending “suicide game” and the unlikely death of the victim – same with the reported cases of “Momo Challenge” casualties in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, and Europe.

Adding up to the skepticism of some experts, law enforcement and investigating bodies, and even parents themselves, is the information debunking the hype on “Momo Challenge”.

The face of the “Momo Challenge” was found to be a sculpture created by Link Factory, a Japanese special effects company. Reports say that unscrupulous individual/s behind the “Momo Challenge” only used the cropped image of the “Mother Bird” (the real name of the artwork) due to its disturbingly bizarre appearance.

Web security experts also claimed that the “Momo Challenge” is likely a case of “moral panic” and is being sensationalized through media reports and social media stories.

It was even being compared to the popular “Blue Whale Challenge”, a "game" reportedly consisting of a series of tasks that are initially harmless before introducing elements of self-harm and requiring the player to commit suicide at the final challenge, as well as the “Bloody Mary Challenge”, wherein children would scare themselves by saying “Bloody Mary” three times in front of a mirror.

Nevertheless, the PNP ACG appealed to parents and guardians to closely monitor their children’s Internet use and warned the public amid reports and social media posts about the “Momo Challenge”.

Furthermore, the National Online Safety, a group of online safety experts, has issued advices on how parents, guardians, and teachers could protect youngsters from this purported “suicide game”:

1) Tell them it is not real. Just like any urban legend or horror story, the concept can be quite frightening and distressing for young people.

2) Be present. It is important for the parents or guardians to be present while their children are online.

3) Talk regularly. As well as monitoring their children’s activity, it is important for parents/guardians to discuss it with them too.

4) Device settings and parental controls. Ensure the setting up of parental controls for devices at home.

5) Peer pressure. Trends and viral challenges can be tempting for children to take part in; no matter how dangerous or scary they seem.

6) Real or hoax? It is natural for parents/guardians to feel worried about certain things they see online that may be harmful to their children.

7) Report and block. Parents/guardians should flag and report any material deemed to be inappropriate or harmful as soon as they come across it. They should also block the account/content to prevent their children from viewing it. (PNA)