By now I’m sure you have all heard (and have been aghast with the deluge images) of the grinning creature with matted hair and bulging eyes encouraging children to hurt themselves or engage in other dangerous actions that has created widespread panic across the globe.  Momo.  Or what is called the Momo Challenge.  

Earlier this week, “Momo” was a top new trending search term on Google for the US, Australia, Canada and the UK.

My father recently skyped (as he typically does to chat with us and especially the children).  Prior to his convo with them, my kids have never even heard of Momo.  They both watch YouTube (with parental controls and limits, of course) and my daughter also has a little fun on Snapchat (strictly for filters) and TikTok.  They know nothing of this creepy creature.  That changed after my dad brought it up out of concern and urged them to be very careful and extra vigilant on YouTube because of the Momo Challenge.  After that, my daughter naturally, out of curiosity, googled it and did not want to sleep alone that night.  

Who is Momo?

The signature image for Momo — the possessed-looking chicken lady — predates pretty much every report of the supposed challenge and appears to have nothing to do with the viral sensation. It is a statue called “Mother Bird,” made by artist Keisuke Aisawa who works with Japanese special effects company Link Factory. Images of the statue from a gallery display first began circulating as early as 2016.

The challenge itself was likely cooked up on a creepypasta subreddit that catalogs horror urban legends. An image of the “Mother Bird” sculpture was uploaded in July 2018, and from there the myth of “Momo” took hold.

Please Don’t Be Worried…

I strongly believe this super chilling viral hoax became more of a concern to our children because we also made it that way for them.  I don’t blame parents for wanting to naturally protect their children, in fact, I was getting ready to discuss this concern with them before my dad did.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend this whole thing did not alarm me.  It totally did!  But I wanted to do more research first and ensure I wasn’t sparking any fear and feeding this hysteria.  

In a statement, YouTube said after a review the company had “seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube.”

A recent article I read on CNN stated this:

Actual verified accounts of kids coming across these Momo videos or messages are scant. According to Snopes, the fact-checking site, the 2018 suicide deaths of two boys in India were linked in news reports to the the Momo Challenge. Other people cited in the report claimed to have gotten invitations to the game in the messaging program WhatsApp.
 
In late February, a woman in Sacramento claimed her 12-year-old daughter turned on a gas stove after watching videos that contained surprise clips of the Momo figure. There have also been reports in the UK that children as young as five have, according to their parents, threatened violence on behalf of the Momo character.
 
This seems like cause for concern. But here’s the thing: Anyone can post pretty much anything to YouTube at any time, so it’s impossible to say there aren’t creepy videos floating around that display harmful content. Is it a problem worthy of special attention? Experts don’t think so.
 
“Is there a prevalent, global phenomenon of Momo popping up in kids’ WhatsApp accounts and YouTube videos and urging them to harm themselves or others? That claim appears to be fear-driven exaggeration lacking in supportive evidence,” David Mikkelson, the founder of Snopes.com, tells CNN (Snopes has covered the phenomenon with skepticism).
 

Telus also recently shared this article on Critical thinking skills in the face of Momo and other viral challenges that is a must-read!

Whether this Momo Challenge is a hoax or not, the fact of the matter is kids are highly impressionable and easily frightened.  This is not taking into account those that may suffer from mental health issues.  Anything that involves children (or anyone) with the potential of being put in harms way is not to be taken lightly.  It’s never a joking matter nor is it something that we should ignore.  

Talk To Your Children About Online Safety

So how is the best way to deal with serious online issues like this with our children?

  • Be reassuring
  • Encourage your child to talk to you if they have concerns about their safety
  • Use parental control tools on technology (and television i.e. YouTube)
  • Do not let your child send confidential information over the Internet and teach them not to share information that might identify them
  • Make it very clear to children that in the virtual world, not every person is a friend, and that some people may even want to hurt them
  • Teach them that not everything you see online is true and not all the information that can be found on the Internet comes from a reliable or safe place
  • If anyone gets a Momo Challenge, the key thing to do is “ignore it.” But make sure to let a parent know right away.
  • Get Telus Wise – a free online source for kids and adults providing helpful resources and empowering Canadians to stay safe in a digital world

I have these conversations around digital safety with my children often.  If there’s one thing that’s viral in this house it’s my constant reminders around online safety. 

Have a tween on social media? This post may be helpful!

The internet will always be an unnerving place for children and adults alike but we don’t have to live being fearful if we make sure we equip, not only our children but ourselves, with the right know-how’s and tools to create a positive online experience. 


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post as a Telus_Partner; however, all opinions expressed are entirely those of the author.

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