Chill Parents! Momo Isn’t a Big Deal
Over the last 24 hours, my Facebook News Feed has been cluttered with the wide-eyed, creepy smile sporting, chicken-legged "Momo". The 'girl' is actually a piece of Japanese horror art called "Mother Bird" that has now been dubbed Momo is being used to scare people on the internet.
Parents are in a panic over Momo as videos featuring Momo have reportedly infiltrated YouTube Kids videos. Allegedly, a video will start as a normal kids video featuring the likes of Peppa Pig, or Paw Patrol, and halfway through Momo will pop up, and threaten the viewer, and give instructions on how to commit suicide.
Obviously, this is horrifying. So horrifying, I had to see it myself to believe it and what I found was very little, to be honest. The shared Facebook posts were often shares of screenshots of shares from other pages. It ended up being quite the rabbit hole with no real destination. Even Reddit had little to offer despite the well documented Elsa Gate. ("ElsaGate is a Phenomenon on Youtube of reoccuring Themes, Animations in Context of inappropriate Topics in Videos on several Channels available and targeted at Kids. Those videos often feature Spiderman, Frozen Elsa, Joker, Mickey Mouse and other Characters popular with Kids.")
Here's the thing, this is the internet in 2019. A politician hopeful can tweet something silly in 2007 and it's dug up like nothing. Things are often archived. When something crazy happens online, screenshots are taken, videos are copied, shared, and torn apart. But a creepy girl telling kids to kill themselves? Nothing. That seemed rather odd to me.
Now, of course, the videos could have been immediately taken down, but with the sheer amount of posts and panic, one would think they were everywhere. There are some screenshots floating around, but, who's to say they weren't Photoshopped?
While researching the topic myself, I found out that Momo is nothing new. In fact, last summer The Momo Challenge was trending, primarily in Spanish speaking countries. Multiple WhatsApp numbers were floating around and people were encouraged to message this Momo character with the knowledge that she was going to "haunt" you. The concept sounded similar to the video in the 2002 film, The Ring. Momo would proceed to send creepy photos and threaten whoever was talking to them.
I found many videos of YouTubers doing the challenge, only to find a friend was setting them up. But thanks to our clickbait culture, it's presented as real until the very end.
Between scrolling through the panic-filled posts and notes from moms, "I had to delete YouTube Kids from Sally's Kindle!" I saw an article from Forbes that said, "Don't Panic!" The article goes on to call The Momo Challenge "a viral ghost story." And notes that kids have always been interested in taboo internet tales.
Back in my day it was "Forward this e-mail to 20 people or you'll be visited by the ghost of Ned Smith and bad luck will follow your miserable life for all eternity." In recent years kids have been simultaneously spooked and intrigued by Slenderman, a creepy character and game that capitalizes on jump scares. Now, this isn't to say these seemingly silly things don't have consequences, two young girls stabbed a peer in Wisconcin and attributed motive to wanting to please Slenderman.
Momo has been inserted into games such as Roblox and Minecraft due to their customization options, and while creepy looking, not unusual or outright dangerous for kids, or trolling adults to do.
Parenting website, Parent Zone, reported that "the number of reported cases of children harming themselves because of the game is extremely low. The challenge has alleged ties to three cases of teens killing themselves in Asia and South America, but there is no proof that it was the direct cause."
Forbes interviewed Carmel Glassbrook, manager of Professionals Online Safety Helpline who stated that the real issue is "professionals and parents [who] were sharing Facebook posts about Momo without checking on its validity" and that Momo "has become a viral topic, founded more on scaremongering headlines than well-researched facts."
It's understandable to panic when kids are concerned but this is one issue that you likely don't need to be too concerned over. Restricting and monitoring your child's internet use is always a great idea. Keep doing that and keep asking your kids questions. An involved parent is the best way to help kids navigate the often strange, sometimes creepy, at times helpful world that is the internet. You can see more tips for keeping your kids safe online here.