Inside: Is Momo real or a hoax? An update on the Momo Challenge and what you haven’t been told.
WHY?? WHY?? WHY?!?!!
I think that’s what all parents want to say to the person who started the whole Momo thing.
While it’s been around for a couple years, in the past couple weeks news of the Momo challenge has been everywhere. Unless you completely unplug and disconnect from the rest of the world, it’s all but unavoidable right now.
Is Momo real or is Momo a hoax?
That’s the burning question, and it’s stirring up a LOT of controversy.
Snopes.com discredited the Momo Challenge as “far more hype or hoax than reality.” YouTube quickly jumped to its own defense, saying they’d yet to find any videos on their platform promoting the Momo Challenge.
Just as quickly as they jumped on the bandwagon warning parents to watch out for Momo, the media turned around and told parents to forget it ever happened.
Momo is fake news, they said.
But how can Momo be a hoax if I’ve seen the videos myself?
After I published my first article about the Momo Challenge, parent after parent reached out to let me know that they had found the videos online, and that they seemed frighteningly real.
My child was watching YouTube Kids and Momo appeared in the video!
Seemingly safe videos – Peppa Pig being one of the names I heard time and again – allegedly were altered to include clips of Momo instructing kids to hurt themselves.
I don’t doubt for a second that these types of experiences are happening — that’s why simply writing everything off as a hoax isn’t fair to the parents dealing with the fallout of some very real video clips. Because of this I think it is important to clarify what exactly is meant when saying “Momo is a hoax.”
YouTube doesn’t want everyone to stop using their service, so it makes sense for them to say that the challenge isn’t real and they’re on top of it.
What they’re not telling is that it is absolutely impossible to check every piece of content before it is uploaded. It’s impossible to check even a fraction of the videos that are available on YouTube.
YouTube relies on the help of users to police and report inappropriate content. The same goes for other social media platforms too.
So do we believe them when they tell us that Momo is a hoax?
Here’s what we know:
There are no credible reports of anyone hurting themselves or committing suicide as a result of seeing Momo videos. So claims that kids are winding up with grave injuries or worse after seeing Momo are not true.
In that regard, Momo is a hoax.
The problem is that there ARE videos of Momo circulating, and likely far more of them than before the media frenzy started. YouTube and other social media networks are on high alert, but realistically, it’s impossible to prevent attention-seekers and troublemakers from uploading these clips.
Try telling a parent whose kid came home terrified after seeing a Momo video at school that the whole thing is fake.
It’s no wonder that many schools have banned YouTube in response. (That’s probably a good idea anyway).
How to Protect Your Kids from Watching Momo
We know Momo videos are out there, and if nothing else, they can be scary for kids who aren’t old enough to understand the difference between reality and fiction.
To be honest, the photos of Momo creep me out so much that I’ve refused to watch any of the videos.
Aside from flat-out banning YouTube, what is a parent supposed to do?
In my first post about the Momo Challenge, I talk about screen time and internet rules in our house, and I stand by those. We absolutely can control what our kids see in our home.
- Only pre-approved (by us) YouTube Kids channels are allowed. These are trusted sources, whether it be the official channel for a television series that the girls enjoy, or a kid-centric content creator. These channels are not going to jeopardize their good standing or income by posting inappropriate material.
- All screen time takes place in eyesight of parents. Our girls do not have their own tablets or electronics, but rather we have a family iPad that they may use with permission and in our presence. Not only do our kids know that they are only allowed to watch a few specific channels, but they know we are watching too.
The above measures go a long way towards minimizing, if not eliminating exposure to harmful content. This is probably all that is necessary with younger kids who don’t have outside access to social media or the internet (preschoolers and younger).
However, older kids will likely hear about Momo from their friends, at school, etc. While we may not be able to prevent our older kids from learning who Momo is or even seeing pictures, we can make sure that they have a good head on their shoulders to deal with their peer influences.
We can’t wait until something like Momo comes along to talk to our kids about internet safety. This needs to be an ongoing conversation so kids know what to do when another one of these “challenges” goes viral.
What if your child has seen Momo videos?
My four-year-old hasn’t even seen the Momo videos, but for a couple days she was terrified of just the idea of Momo. (Which is why I wish I’d never asked her about it in the first place).
I did my best to explain that the Momo videos are a prank, and that she is not a real being. And then I explained it again…and again…when she asked the same questions repeatedly (as four-year-olds often do).
The best thing we can do is to reassure our kids and protect them from further exposure to that type of content.
One mom told me that her middle-school-aged son came to her and confided that his friends had all watched Momo videos and it was something that scared him. The mom worried that she’d failed at protecting her son from learning about such a thing.
That couldn’t be further from the truth!
If your child or teen seeks you out for help, then you’ve done your job as a parent. Kids are going to encounter things that you wish they didn’t. We can’t stop that from happening. What we CAN do is make sure that our kids feel safe coming to us instead of hiding things.
It’s not all up to YouTube
I do believe that YouTube and social media networks carry a responsibility to their users to make their platforms a safe space. However the ultimate responsibility falls on us parents.
I have three kids, so I totally get the need for a little bit of downtime or a few minutes to get something done, like finishing the dishes or squeezing in a workout. Allowing kids to watch their favorite channels keeps them happily occupied, and isn’t a bad thing if done under good supervision.
You’re not a bad parent if your kid watches YouTube Kids.
You’re not a bad parent if your kid stumbled across a Momo video.
Stuff happens and none of us are perfect or 100% present 100% of the time.
Take a moment to honestly evaluate the presence of YouTube in your house and the type of experience you want your children to have with social media and the internet.
Yes, it’s more work for us to closely monitor every single video our kids watch on YouTube. However, if it keeps them from seeing something harmful, then the extra effort is worthwhile, is it not?
There are always going to be bad people and negative influences in our world, seeking the attention of our children and teens.
But I can promise you that YOU are a stronger influence on your kids than anything else in this world.