Dad and young teen looking at a tablet together.

How to Keep Up with Online Challenges and Protect Your Kids

by Screen Time Team on 22/05/2019
Two teenagers taking photographs of each other.

But the arrival of YouTube, Snapchat, and other video-centric social networks has amplified both the possible rewards and the pressures, and kids can be drawn into these challenges too. Here’s how to stay on top of this phenomenon and sort the silly from the dangerous.

Don’t Panic

First, remain calm and be skeptical. There have been endless waves of parent panics over the years, with the most recent being the “Momo Challenge,” a hoax claiming that a user calling themselves “Momo” was tricking kids into hurting themselves. While the impulse to protect kids is admirable, the stampede to stop this nonexistent challenge caused more problems than it solved. 

And don’t forget these panics tend to underestimate the intelligence of children. It pays to be skeptical of what you see on the internet, especially if it’s designed to scare you, and it’s also good behavior to model for your kids.

Teach Kids To Think Critically

When it comes to challenges, it’s more effective to teach kids about risks than it is to try and protect them from ever hearing about “challenges” in the first place. The best tool you can give to your children is common sense. Teach them how people might try to manipulate them, using videos attempting to do just that, and to look critically at how certain videos present themselves.

Similarly, if they want to do a challenge, have them come to you to talk about it. These are teaching opportunities; you can show them how to evaluate risks versus rewards. Dousing yourself in ice water or flipping a bottle so it lands upside down are silly fun and there’s no reason kids shouldn’t participate. Make sure they understand that if a stranger is ordering them not to tell their parents about something, then telling you is the first thing they should do.

Dad and young teen looking at a tablet together.

Restrict YouTube

That said, even hoaxes can cause problems, so limit them out of the gate. Implement YouTube’s parental controls, make sure young kids only use the YouTube Kids app, and use parental control apps (including iPhone parental controls if applicable) to limit kids’ usage to times when you’re in the house and can talk with them if they see something upsetting. This should be part of your overall screen rules, as well. Kids could, for example, have video games or YouTube in a given day, but not both.

Keep The Lines Of Communication Open

Sometimes it’s obvious what’s happening. If you spot your kids pushing a trampoline towards the swing set, you can step in and keep them from taking on that particular challenge. Other times, kids may need answers to questions or have thoughts they need to share. Making sure they know they can talk to you can nip potentially dangerous situations in the bud.

Hide Their Location

Your kids may use many different apps, and some of them can track their location. There’s no harm done if it’s an app like Pokémon Go that needs location sharing to function. But most apps shouldn’t be able to know about your kid’s whereabouts. That’s why you should review the apps on their devices and disable location sharing whenever possible. Keep in mind that it doesn’t include GPS signal sharing alone. Not hiding your IP address is another way to reveal where you are, just a bit less precisely. That’s why you should download a VPN on their phone or tablet to hide their location on both fronts. You can find more information on what a VPN is here.

Look For Challenges Family And Friends Can Do

The best way to limit certain kinds of temptation is to engage with it in a healthy way. Have your family run challenges by you and have certain rules about them. That way kids can participate in them and you could even make it a family bonding activity by participating in a safe and fun challenge together.

To learn more about how the ScreenTime parental control app can help you deal with YouTube and its subcultures, we invite you to try it for free,

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