26 February 2019
By Rebecca Avery

Online Safety Alert: Social Media ‘Challenge’

Several schools have contacting the team over the past few days regarding a recent story circulating on social media and subsequently via national press. As such, the team would like to reiterate the following advice and information from our blog post so that schools can ’Think before they scare’.

it’s important to recognise that most of the current concerns have been fuelled by the recent publicity and are not based on confirmed or factual occurrences. Whilst many of the social media posts and news stories discuss the ‘game’ encouraging self-harm or other harmful behaviour or the character ‘inserting itself’ into videos and games, credible reports are very rare, making it difficult for people to know precisely what is going on. It is likely that following the recent media attention, content is now being created and shared on popular social media apps which generates fear and adds to the panic.

Viral scare stories and challenges often contain graphic or distressing imagery; we strongly recommend this is not shared with children or parents. Adults should be aware that mentioning specific challenges by name may encourage children to explore something that they were previously unaware of, either out of curiosity, or because they want to feel involved in what everyone is talking about.

Our advice is to deal with any reports on a case by case basis and encourage parents to focus on positive behaviours online, such as critical thinking, blocking and reporting and telling an adult when you see something that makes you feel upset or distressed. Practical support for parents (and indeed children) regarding blocking and reporting content on specific sites may also be required.

If children report a specific concern, schools should have age appropriate conversations, either individually or in small class based situations, regarding peer pressure and urban myths. If there are any safeguarding concerns regarding children known to have been upset by online content, DSLs should take appropriate action in line with their child protection policy.

We recommend all schools reiterate advice for children and parents about what to do if they see something upsetting or scary online and look to reassure children about reporting concerns to a trusted adult. Further advice and useful links can be found on ’Think before you Scare’.

If schools wish to raise awareness more directly with parents, the following link may be useful to share: 6 Tips For Parents Dealing With Scaremongering 'Suicide Games'.

A template letter for schools and settings to use regarding viral stories is also available.

If Kent schools are concerned that pupils have been placed at risk or wish to discuss the specific concern further, please contact the Education Safeguarding Service directly via esafetyofficer@theeducationpeople.org or 03000 415797