Inside: What parents need to know about the Momo Challenge and how to keep their kids safe online.
I wish I’d never said the word “momo” in our house.
Like all of you, I saw the disturbing photo circulating Facebook last week, warning parents to ask their kids about “momo,” which is supposedly a new social media “suicide challenge” aimed at kids and teens.
Sounds pretty scary right?
What is Momo?
The so-called “Momo Challenge” features a terrifying image of a deathly pale girl doll who has jet black hair and protruding eyes. The picture is said to pop up in the middle of kids videos on YouTube, even on YouTube Kids.
Y’all…this photo is disturbing. I don’t even like looking at it — and I’m a grown-up who knows it’s fake. I can only imagine how scary it must look to a child.
The picture alone is enough, but the worst part of the Momo Challenge is that “Momo” tells kids to do bad things, even hurt themselves.
Like dangerous internet challenges past (remember the Tide Pod Challenge?), the Momo Challenge sent parents, schools, and the media into a frenzy.
Everywhere you look, everyone is talking about Momo.
Watch out for Momo! Warn your kids!! Beware!!
Should you be worried?
The image is real, but the original intent is far from what the now-viral “warning” posts claim.
The scary-looking doll with long black hair and huge eyes is actually a sculpture, created by Keisuke Aisawa, an artist for the Japanese special effects company Link Factory and displayed at Tokyo’s horror-art Vanilla Gallery in 2016. They have nothing to do with any of this Momo nonsense.
View this post on Instagram
Apparently photos from the event circulated quickly online and along the way the term “Momo Challenge” hit the mainstream. However, it looks like the Momo Challenge is little more than an urban legend.
So far there are no actual confirmed cases of injuries or suicides linked to the Momo Challenge. In fact, Snopes.com says that “the existence of the Momo challenge may be far more hype or hoax than reality.”
YouTube also released a statement, assuring users that “despite press reports of this challenge surfacing” they’ve seen “no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube.”
Parents: the Momo Challenge isn’t a real thing.
I repeat, Momo is FAKE.
Should you talk to your kids about Momo or other internet challenges?
Even though it turned out to be a hoax, the Momo Challenge is still all over the news and parents are still worried. So I asked my daughters if they’d heard of it.
I knew full well that my youngest daughter wouldn’t. She’s four and doesn’t have any unsupervised screen time. I did suspect that my oldest daughter would at least have heard kids at school talking about it.
“What’s Momo?” they both asked.
I explained that Momo is a creepy picture but it’s fake, so if they hear kids talking about it, don’t worry.
Case closed. Parenting duty done.
So I thought…
Except now my four-year-old won’t stop talking about Momo.
“Is Momo fake?”
“Will I see Momo on YouTube?”
“Will you show me Momo? Is she scary looking?”
All day long. Momo this, Momo that.
It doesn’t matter that I told her it’s fake. She still asks. She still worries.
If I’d never mentioned Momo, she wouldn’t know about it.
How to talk to your kids about Momo:
- If you have a pre-schooler or a child that never has unsupervised screen time…DON’T! If there’s no way for them to find out about Momo on their own, don’t put the idea in their head. Unless you want to deal with tons of questions and nightmares for days on end.
- If you have an older child who is around other kids at school and might hear about it on their own, it makes sense to have a conversation about internet challenges in general. I explained to my oldest daughter that someone took the photo and posted it to get attention. We revisited our ongoing conversation about internet safety and when to bring something to a grown-up’s attention.
The problem isn’t Momo.
If it’s not Momo, it will be something else.
The problem isn’t Momo — the problem is that users can post whatever they want to YouTube.
Parenting blogger Jennifer explains, “just like how there is no ‘approval department’ at Facebook approving each and every Facebook post, Youtube allows users to generate and post content at their own discretion.” Click here for more about what parents need to know about YouTube and YouTube Kids.
Furthermore, even if you ban the internet in your house, your kids still learn about things like this from their peers.
So what can you do?
Don’t panic. Be proactive.
The most important thing we can do as parents to keep our kids safe online is to maintain an open line of communication. We want our kids to feel like they can come to us with concerns or for help.
Setting firm “house rules” about internet use helps minimize exposure to harmful content.
Some of our family’s internet rules:
- No social media profiles for our kids/tweens
- No electronics in bedrooms; all screen time takes place in a supervised family area
- When using YouTube Kids, our girls may only watch channels we know and approve
- Frequent check-ins by my husband and I to make sure the kids are not watching anything they shouldn’t
There’s no perfect system, but knowing what your kids are watching AND your kids knowing that you are watching goes a long way towards keeping them safer online.
And for your own sake, don’t panic about every scary new “challenge” that your Facebook friends are talking about or the news tries to scare you with.
These internet challenges seem to be as much about capitalizing on parents’ fear as anything else. And we’re smarter than that!
More of our most popular parenting posts: