Children targeted in data hack

Police and schools are warning parents about the ‘Momo’ challenge, an app which encourages children to add a contact on messaging service WhatsApp, then sends them violent images and dares. They believe that the app is in fact being run by hackers in an attempt to extract personal information. It is also believed the hackers have accessed Youtube Kids channels as well, so very young children are also at risk. 

Jake Moore, cyber security specialist at ESET comments:

“Knowing what your children are up to online can be a constant battle of trust, especially when we need to ensure that children understand the real importance of not giving away personal information to someone they do not know. 

It can sometimes be very challenging for parents to keep up with the fast moving digital age but communication still plays a vital role when it comes to teaching children about the real risks of the internet. 

Adding someone on WhatsApp may seem harmless or even fun at first but it can be very damaging in the future once they are a “contact”, especially if this new connection then asks you to act out something you usually would not feel comfortable in participating in."

Alastair Graham, CEO of AgeChecked which is a provider of online solutions to retailers of age-restricted goods and services, tells us what needs to be done to prevent children accessing such dangerous content: 

How can children be protected online? 

 “We have a responsibility to protect children from online risks, just as we do in the offline world. This means implementing robust measures to help ensure that underage individuals do not readily come across age-inappropriate content on digital platforms.

“Incoming regulation under the Digital Economy Act, which requires the use of age-gates on adult content websites, is a step in the right direction. However, we have a moral obligation to do more. There is no reason why this approach cannot be replicated across all websites that can expose children to harmful material.”

Why has Momo become a risk?

“Children can easily access the Internet through games consoles and mobile devices, with a recent report even finding that 25% of children under six already own their own mobile. This has opened up a new avenue through which criminals can access vulnerable young people.

“It’s impossible for parents to supervise Internet access 24/7, so there’s an increasing risk that children will come into contact with disturbing content, such as Momo. This stresses the need for the Government, businesses and website owners to share the responsibility and work with parents to ensure that there are better measures in place that mean young people cannot stumble across harmful material.” 

What advice would you give to parents on how they can speak to their children about these types of online dangers?

“There is a natural tendency to shield children from issues that might cause distress, but unfortunately in some cases youngsters will inevitably come into contact with harmful content such as Momo. 

“Therefore, it is advisable to give children the information they need to be safe, whilst helping them to understand the importance of creating boundaries for themselves. 

“To achieve this, parents could discuss these dangers with their children as soon as they become aware of them. In doing so, youngsters will be more equipped and empowered to identify this sort of content as dangerous and ultimately avoid it.”