So What Is the Momo Challenge?
Why parents are freaking out about this terrifying “game"
Rolling Stone Magazine reports, there is a terrifying new online "dare" targeting our kids!
From Slender Man to kids eating detergent pods, there’s a long and rich history of creepy internet challenges freaking out parents. The latest addition to this time-honored tradition is Momo, an online challenge that allegedly targets young children by encouraging them to text a number on WhatsApp, which then sends them instructions to complete a series of increasingly bizarre and dangerous tasks from watching a horror movie to engaging in self-harm to taking their own lives.
A Facebook post from the Police Service of Northern Island (PSNI) recently issued apublic warningto parents urging them to supervise their kids’ activity on WhatsApp. There have also been reports of trolls editing kid-friendly YouTube videos to include images of Momo, as well as instructions encouraging them to self-harm.
It probably wouldn’t shock anyone to learn that the image of “Momo,” while undeniably terrifying, has virtually nothing to do with the “Momo Challenge” itself. The bug-eyed girl with matted hair and wraithlike limbs that’s associated with Momo is actually a sculpture made by Keisuke Aisawa of the Link Factory, a Japanese company that makes horror film props and special effects.
Reports have also surfaced of YouTube videos featuring kid-friendly characters like Peppa Pig or Splatoon gameplays being edited with images of Momo, as well as instructions for children to self-harm. Such videos appear to be made by trolls with the express intention of trying to disturb children. “One kid might turn it off, but another kid who’s more vulnerable may leave it on,” said Dr. April Foreman, licensed psychologist, executive board member of the American Association of Suicidology.
Experts on mental health have cautioned that such hysterical news coverage could potentially prove harmful, possibly even inspiring imitators. Take, for instance, the case of the two 12-year-old girls from Wisconsin who attempted to stab their best friend to death, later claiming that they did so to appease the fictional internet boogeyman Slender Man. While there is no evidence that Slender Man exists, the case “is instructive, because Slender Man doesn’t have to exist in order for people to act on it,” cautions Benjamin Radford, a folklorist and research fellow for the Committee for Skeptic Inquiry.
Even if the risks associated with challenges like the Momo Challenge are overblown, that’s not to say that children aren’t at risk of being exploited by predators on the internet. Reports that popular platforms like YouTube are flooded with content creators who exploit the platform’s algorithm in order to create disturbing and often violent videos that are specifically targeted at children, often using popular kids’ characters; YouTube, by all accounts, has done little to crack down on such content. Further, YouTube has lost advertisers over recent reports that pedophiles were congregating in the platform’s comments sections, sometimes even posting links to actual child porn in the process.
Best advice to parents, have a frank conversation with kids about their internet use. The experts continue to urge that we have to think of it like this, things are happening that are sort of the new media analogues of strangers giving out candy on the side of the road! In addition to implementing parental controls and filters on all of their kids’ devices, parents should also say to our kids, "You may see some weird stuff, if you do, turn it off. Just let me know."ivi
Best advice, stay connected to our kid's online activities, especially as they are navigating this new wide world themselves! Ultimately, the internet is a pretty scary place for kids, and parents have a lot to freak out about as is. There’s probably no need to add a shrieking bird lady sculpture from Japan to the list. 🤪
Anyone experiencing a crisis is encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.