Handling tipsCreepy chain letters for Halloween

Chain letters via WhatsApp are spreading, especially among children. The younger the children are, the less they can judge whether the content is true or not. Especially around Halloween, creepy chain letters circulate online that can instill fear in children. We give tips on how parents can support their children in this case.

Chain letters often appear in waves, such as around Halloween. Chain letters with death threats and scary stories in particular can cause great fear in children. Sometimes the text messages are also supplemented with scary pictures or sounds. Children come into contact with these chain letters primarily on WhatsApp.

A typical feature of a chain letter is that it is to be forwarded to a predetermined number of people. It is often threatened that something bad will happen if the chain letter is not forwarded. Typical threats are, for example, that a creepy figure will appear in the room, that the parents or oneself will die.

If children contact you with a chain letter, you should definitely take it seriously. No matter how ridiculous the content may seem from your adult perspective,  children have very real concerns for their own safety or that of their loved ones. They need your support in classifying chain letters correctly and overcoming their fear.

Example: Chain letter Momo

Momo" has been haunting children's smartphones for several years. The creepy chain letter threatens that the figure of "Momo" will appear at night if the message is not forwarded. Barbara from saferinternet.at explains about "Momo" and other creepy chain letters. 

How can parents discuss the topic of chain letters with their children?

  • Take children's fears seriously! When a child worries that he or she or a close person might die, these worries are quite real. It is not always easy to refute these irrational fears with reasonable arguments.
  • Children are often unaware that the "dangers" described in chain letters have nothing to do with reality. Make it clear to your child again and again that nothing bad will happen if you don't forward a chain letter. If you accompany your child, he or she will gain confidence over time that the dangers threatened in chain letters are not real.
  • Together with your child, make up your own age-appropriate scary story. Your child will quickly realize how easy it is and perhaps how much fun it can be. This will make it easier for your child to imagine that the chain letter is actually made up, too.
  • Discuss with children which chain letters can be forwarded and which cannot. Set clear rules and show that your child can always come to you with questions. Not all chain letters are threatening or questionable. However, neither should spam. Great care should be taken especially with messages that contain links: These may be viruses or scam attempts.

Quick relief for children: The chain letter chatbot from Saferinternet.at

The chain letter chatbot supports children in dealing with scary chain letters. Instead of forwarding a chain letter on WhatsApp to their circle of friends, children can send it to the number 0681 10 809 449. The chatbot then gives them immediate feedback on the content.