The Internet, an Anarchic Playground

With the rising infamy of many Internet hoaxes, scares and more, parents face numerous challenges keeping their kids safe

Nirosh Saravanan, Contributor

The Internet, a place where one can buy, communicate and learn whatever they please. But what to buy, who to communicate with and what to learn? It really is an ever-expanding field full of useful ideas for us to use, but it can also be full of some odd and downright disturbing content.

Right now what’s making the rounds is the Momo challenge. Essentially, what it boils down to is that the victim starts messaging an entity known as Momo on WhatsApp. Momo, the image of a terrifying big-eyed woman that was originally part of an art exhibit in Tokyo, then starts telling them to complete a series of challenges before finally committing suicide. Well, that’s what’s supposed to happen in what has ultimately been deemed a hoax, though the take home message for parents to more closely monitor their children’s online activity is still relevant.

It’s eerily similar to the blue whale challenge, which also had a series of instructions that ultimately led to suicide. However, this too was a hoax. It was a misinterpretation of a Russian news site’s reports on the link between social media groups and teen suicides. However, the hoax evolved into a strange reality. “The so-called ‘death groups’ became popular precisely after the article by Galina Mursaliyeva,” author of the original Russian article, and are, “full of lies and fiction,” said Christina Potupchik, member of the commission on the development of the informational community of the RF PCT. It has even been used as a political tool to call for censorship on social media platforms.

So where does this leave us? Should we censor in the name of security at the price of the liberty provided to us by uninterrupted communication or take it upon ourselves to find out what’s really going on? Well of course the second option, as history proves we don’t need to rely on the Internet to spread misinformation. One such example is the Dungeons & Dragons scare that happened when the game first came out. Hysteria surrounding the game was strong with some saying that the players were being taught to become demon worshipers. A mom blamed her son’s suicide on the game, but his classmate said he already had underlying issues leading to the suicide. What this teaches us is that we must not shoot the messenger as these events will still happen indefinitely, with or without the Internet. It’s like when you were a kid and your friends told you about whatever ghost was haunting the school that particular year. You didn’t really question it, but just made sure not to make the ghost angry. There was no need for the Internet.

At the end of the day it is just like when we were kids. Follow the advice our parents gave us, like to not talk talk to strangers and step away from the screen every so often. But nowadays, facing a barrage of information, people will be misinformed. When the truth feels close to fiction it gets hard to tell what’s real. So to fight misinformation, parents themselves must seek out the truth.

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