Responding to reports about viral scares online

Stories and warnings often circulate online, and offline, about online scares or suicide challenges which are alleged to have encouraged children to engage in harmful activities. Most have been found to be hoaxes, fake news or wildly exaggerated stories, however it is important that the children and young people you work with know how to seek help should they require it.

One of our core values is not to frighten or scare-monger. Therefore, we do not advise sending warnings out to parents and carers or publicising issues on your newsletters or social media pages. Whilst sharing warnings is often done with good intentions, it can pose risks.
 
Seeing or hearing about this content can be distressing for both children and their families. If a child has not heard about the scare, it can make them curious, and they may look for the content online which they could find upsetting. By publicising there is also a risk that an individual will create a website with harmful content based around the scare.

 

Stories and warnings often circulate online about online scares or suicide challenges which are alleged to have encouraged children to engage in harmful activities. Most have been found to be hoaxes, fake news or wildly exaggerated stories. 

 

Seeing or hearing about this content can be distressing for both children and parents.

 

 

What to do if you’ve heard about a viral scare/suicide challenge? 

 

As a parent, there is a lot you can do to support your child. It’s important to help your child feel safe by staying calm.

  

  • If your child has not yet heard about the scare, don’t bring it to their attention by naming it or trying to explain it. You don’t want to frighten them, and the last thing you want is for your child to feel curious and try to look for the scary content online. 
  • Instead, remind them that if they ever feel worried about something they see online - or hear about from friends - worries them they can come to you or another adult they trust for help.
  • Make sure they know if they do see something upsetting or worrying, they are in control. Tell them that they can report it to the platform they are using and close down their app or browser – and you can help them with this.
  • Use this as an opportunity to check that privacy settings are enabled on the apps they use and set parental controls to filter out inappropriate content.
  • Continue to have open and honest conversations with your child. Keep up-to-date with what they are doing online, celebrate the positives, and keep talking about how they can stay safe.

 

 

What to do if your child has seen, or been involved in, a viral scare or suicide challenge? 

 

  • Understandably you may be distressed or angry if you hear that your child has seen, or been involved in, a viral scare/suicide challenge. It’s important to stay calm, take their concerns seriously and reassure them that they have done the right thing by telling you.
  • Reassure them that it is not real and that it has been put online to frighten people. BBC Own It have made a video which explains this clearly for young people. 
  • Remind them that when they do see something upsetting or worrying that they are in control. They can report it to the platform they are using and close down their app or browser.
  • Talk to them about other sources of support – speaking to you will have helped, but further support from other sources could also help.

 

 

There are lots of organisations out there can provide this:

What help can I get for my child?

If your child needs someone to talk to because of anything which has upset them, it could be that they are being bullied or that they have seen something online which they wish they hadn’t, there are a number of places they can go.

 

Children can ring Childline on 0800 1111 and speak to trained counsellors about any problems they may face. Childline is run by the NSPCC and is there to help your child.


The Childline website also offers excellent help and advice on a whole range of issues.

Worried about viruses, hacking and online security?

 

Being the victim of online crime can be as distressing as real-world robbery. Learn about the real risks and understand the urgency of protecting your family at GetSafeOnline.

 

Get Safe Online is one of the UK’s leading sources of unbiased, factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety.

 

 

Seen something illegal online?

 

If you have come across something you think might be illegal online, such as sexual images of children and young people, then you can report this to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). It’s their job to make sure that things like this are taken off the internet.

 


Thinkuknow is an education programme from the National Crime Agency’s CEOP Command.

Since 2006, Thinkuknow has been keeping children and young people safe by providing education about sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.

 

Thinkuknow is unique. It is underpinned by the latest intelligence about child sex offending from CEOP Command.

Thinkuknow aims to ensure that everyone has access to this practical information – children, young people, their parents and carers and the professionals who work with them.

 

Alongside the Thinkuknow website the programme provides educational resources, including films, cartoons and lesson plans, to help professionals raise young people’s awareness.

 

Please Note: We have included this post because we felt it was of value and interest to our site visitors. Its inclusion here does not imply any endorsement of our site or work by Thinkuknow. Please use this post as a useful information point and link to further resources.

 

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