Have your say: Internet Crazes

When the Internet and social media turns a fad into a global craze


Momo HoaxWhen I was growing up, I remember countless fads and trends that came and went, either in the confines of school or within my group of friends at home. We could be trying to learn the latest cool trick with our ‘YoYos’, arming ourselves with plastic lemons full of water (our teachers hated that one!), skateboarding, scrambling on bicycles not built for the rough stuff and many more harmless activities that occupied us for a couple of months until the next big ‘thing’ came along.

It’s fair to say, and I think you’ll agree, that there was nothing particularly dangerous or sinister about our childhood fads (apart from those, maybe, that experimented with smoking or alcohol); however, in these days of social media, the historically innocent world of fads and crazes appears to have found a much darker and frankly disturbing format that worryingly some children appear to be compelled to follow.

In recent years, one of the most high-profile online crazes was the furore surrounding the Internet meme ‘Slenderman’ - a fictional supernatural character that was created on a horror Internet forum as part of a competition whereby users were asked to edit existing, everyday photographs to make them appear paranormal. The original poster submitted two black and white images of a group of children and added an abnormally tall and thin, phantom-like figure, in a black suit with no distinguishable facial features - this became known as the ‘Slenderman’. The whole phenomenon went viral on various social media, with a whole wealth of new photographs and stories appearing daily and it wasn’t long before claims were being made that the character was, in fact, real. In May 2014, however, two girls in Wisconsin took the phenomenon to a whole different, macabre level. When they allegedly took a twelve-year-old classmate to woods near their home and stabbed her 19 times, saying to the authorities later that they had attempted to commit a murder in order to become ‘proxies’ of the ‘Slenderman’ - their victim survived.

Another craze started out as a drinking game in Australia. The original idea of the game, which was given the title of ‘Neknominate’ or ‘Neck and Nominate’ was to ‘neck’ an alcoholic drink (usually a pint of beer) and then nominate others to do the same. When comments, images and videos of ‘Neknominate’ participants started to appear on social media platforms it again went quickly viral. The problems with these crazes come when the competitive spirit of some the potential participants takes hold and they consequently raise the level of the challenges. In the case of ‘Neknominate’, it was alleged that five people died as a consequence of the challenges - one participant fatally downed a pint of vodka, whilst another died after reportedly mixing an entire bottle of wine, a quarter bottle of whiskey and a can of lager and ‘necking’ the lot!

Thankfully, some good did come out of this irresponsible craze when a group of South Africans decided to turn it on its head and challenged others to carry out random acts of kindness for others - these also spread virally and picked up such titles as ‘Feed the Deed’ in Canada and ‘SmartNominate’ in France, which encouraged people taking part to give food to the homeless or donate blood.

Unfortunately, it would appear that the spread of crazy and downright dangerous pursuits over social media shows no signs of letting up. In May 2015, the Mail Online reported on a new, and in my opinion, staggeringly stupid, craze called the ‘Fire Challenge’, where young people filmed themselves pouring an inflammable liquid over their bodies and setting themselves alight. There were alleged cases where stunts went wrong and the participants were left badly burned with a 15-year-old in the USA reportedly burned to death when his entire body was engulfed in flames.

In more recent years we have faced other challenges from 'Am I pretty?', not a physically dangerous game but one which could destroy a teenage girls self-esteem, the 'Cinnamon Challenge' where participants tried to consume a spoonful of cinnamon powder', to the 'Blue Whale Challenge', which it has been suggested was a hoax, but nevertheless stories were found of young people taking their own lives as a result, to name just a few.

An now we face, quite literally, Momo. This challenge has taken over the media in recent days, with warnings from schools, police, charities and more about the dangers it creates. In brief, this is also known as the ‘suicide game’ played on WhatsApp. It begins with a disturbing face appearing (this image is actually taken from a sculpture by a Japanese artist). This character encourages young people to add contacts on the messaging service and then replies with threats of violence, and encourages self-harm and suicide. It is suggested that those responsible for ‘Momo’ are hackers looking for information. However, as with the Blue Whale Challenge, it seems that this too is a hoax, but it can still be causing distress to young people.

These days, social media provides a vehicle for fads and trends to spread virally throughout the global community like nothing else previously - even television cannot claim to have contributed to the proliferation of historical trends anywhere close to what the Internet can. The ubiquitous nature of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social platforms that can be accessed via desktop and mobile devices means that any potential phenomena can reach a huge audience very quickly.

But not all Internet crazes are bad. A positive example of how a craze can go viral occurred in the US, by way of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, where a person dumps or has dumped on by friends, a bucket of ice water over their heads to promote awareness of the disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and encourage donations to charities involved in research of the disease. In the UK, people took part in order to support the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

It is often a great experience when you feel part of a movement or phenomena, you can say to friends “yeah, I did that too!” You feel part of an exclusive club or community and if the common activity is a force for good like helping a charity or showing kindness then long may it continue, but when it comes fads or crazes that demand risky pursuits, I am reminded what my parents said whilst chastising me, as a child, when I had done something stupid following the lead of a so-called friend:

“If Joe Smith jumped off a cliff would you follow and jump off too?”


Have your say

Have you had experience of social media trends in your school? What is your school doing to tackle the issue? What positive outcomes have you seen from talking to pupils about this? Let us know your thoughts and suggestions using the comments section below.

Written by Steve Gresty on February 28, 2019 14:25

Have your say: Screen Time

Latest report suggests the harmful effects of excessive screen time are overrated


Screen timeLast week, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) suggested that there was little evidence that screen use was harmful to children.

In its review of evidence published by the BMJ Open medical journal, the RCPCH told parents to worry less about the amount of time spent looking at a screen, but with the caveat that it should be avoided an hour before bedtime.

The review also looked into claims of an association between higher screen use and obesity and depression, stating that there was no clear evidence to support the theory that screen use was the cause of the issue and not a symptom.

With previous advice being to limit screen time, or indeed, use screen time as a controlled reward for good behaviour, the message is still unclear.

However, in the interest of health and well-being, is it more a case of what the screen time is being used for, rather than for how long?

Spending time online researching information for homework or enjoining a film with the family seem to present healthy screen use. However, spending time on social media sites, craving followers and likes is perhaps more damaging as highlighted by a recent BBC feature.

Have your say

Do you agree with the latest advice? What screen use by pupils most concerns you? How can we ensure positive screen use? Let us know your thoughts and suggestions using the comments section below.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on January 11, 2019 13:23

Digital Christmas

Presents unwrap more than paper

With Christmas just around the corner, many children will be hoping for the latest iPhone X, or indeed their first ever phone. Two weeks away from schoolmates and with a new device at their fingertips, children are vulnerable to making online mistakes as they excite in the joy of their new gadget and the opportunity to connect with their friends.

These gifts open them up to a whole new world of fun, opportunity and risk.



These digital kids are no different to children of old – they crave attention and they want to push boundaries and what better way to do it than through social media? As their family sit relaxed enjoying the Christmas TV specials are they aware of just what their children are doing online?

Schools throughout the country offer excellent online safety education and strive to use new and innovative ways to keep the children engaged on the topic. However once children are in the comfort and safety of their own home, perhaps bored due to the lack of structure the holiday brings, they can start to take risks.

By the time the term begins, pastoral staff can find themselves with a queue of children and parents all concerned and upset about social media incidents that have taken place in the holiday period and spilled into the classroom. There is only so much the school can do – parents need to understand that giving a child a device is opening a can of worms.

A step by step approach is needed, no child is allowed to jump on a plane to New York unaccompanied – freedom is given gradually over time, starting with trips to the local shop, then town and so on. Yet with the online world it tends to be all or nothing. Parents need to engage with the online world and replicate the step by step approach to parenting that occurs offline.

As teachers all you can do is signpost your families – they need to know that as the world evolves so does the online offering. Filters on wifi are an easy win for parents, this is not about not trusting your child when they search for things, more ensuring they are protected from images they most likely do not want to see. ChatFOSS is also a useful app – it enables families to communicate with each other in privacy without contact from others – and has an age rating of 3+. It is a great environment for children to practice sending messages and photos.

Whilst teachers strive to educate children about the online world and the opportunities and risks it brings with it, parents also need to be engaged. Easier said than done but it is time parents realised the responsibility of online behaviour has to lie at the door of the parents. Schools can be helpful and offer advice and training, signpost their parents to useful apps such as ChatFOSS and websites such as Internet Matters, but without the parents being involved children will learn the hard way – online mistakes are permanent and there for whole world to see.

E-safety Support would like to thank Alicia from ChatFOSS for her thoughts on this topic. For more information about the ChatFOSS service, click here

Written by Alicia Coad on November 30, 2017 13:44


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