The recent attention surrounding social media “challenges” such as “Momo” and “48 Hours Missing” raises good questions about how much parents should monitor what their children see online.

Although many challenges are not as viral as they appear, online content can include awful images or adult movie trailers that pop up amid the cute stuff, prompting nightmares or raising eyebrows.

What can you do? You can set parental controls — or sit next your child to monitor every viewing experience — but broadly, it’s important to know what your kids are watching. Platforms such as YouTube, Fortnite, Roblox, to name just a few, are all open season, with little warning about what children will see. For more traditional TV shows, movies, and video games, Common Sense Media is a great resource for information to help assess what your child can handle developmentally.

More generally, there is a growing movement encouraging parents to hold off on providing children with smartphones until at least eighth grade. The group Wait Until 8th identifies several reasons to wait until a child is old enough to handle the responsibility. Smartphones, they say:

  • are changing childhood;
  • are addictive;
  • are an academic distraction;
  • impair sleep;
  • interfere with relationships;
  • increase risk for anxiety and depression
  • increase risk for cyberbullying; and
  • can expose children to sexual content. also offers suggestions for ways that parents can monitor their children’s media use.

By Jennifer Stec

Ms. Stec is our school counselor.