While We Were Distracted By The Momo Challenge, The Number Of Children Being Groomed On Social Media Rises

Fake news draws attention away from the real issues...once again

Child on tablet

by Phoebe Parke |
Updated on

If you haven’t seen the terrifying cartoon face being posted everywhere on social media, news sites and in Whatsapp groups, count yourself lucky.

The hoax, labelled the Momo Challenge, is a viral fake news story that claimed children’s TV shows on YouTube were being edited to include messages from a scary cartoon woman who tells children to harm themselves.

In actual fact there is no evidence of these messages or edited videos ever existing, despite this the news dominated not only UK media, but caused a global panic. It’s one thing to spread a fake news story, but charities say the story is actually causing more harm than good.

‘These stories being highly publicised and starting a panic means vulnerable people get to know about it and that creates a risk,’ a Samaritans spokesperson told The Guardian.

‘Currently we’re not aware of any verified evidence in this country or beyond linking Momo to suicide. What’s more important is parents and people who work with children concentrate on broad online safety guidelines.’

And while we’re all distracted with this major hoax, a very real threat to children is getting worse. The NSPCC reports today that the cases of children being groomed via social media tripled between April 2017 and September 2018, and those as young as five are at risk.

Police have been recording the methods offenders use to contact their victims where possible, and in 70 per cent of recorded cases Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram were used, with the latter accounting for 33 per cent.

Expecting these social networks to stop offenders using their platforms to prey on young children clearly hasn’t worked, says NSPCC’s Peter Wanless. ‘These figures are overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks,' he said in a statement.

‘It is hugely concerning to see the sharp spike in grooming offences on Instagram, and it is vital that the platform designs basic protection more carefully into the service it offers young people.’

For more information on protecting your children online, head to the NSPCC's website****.

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