March 4, 2019
You may be aware of an internet "challenge" called the "Momo Challenge," which has made news and circulated on social media recently. The stories suggest that a distorted, big-eyed character is popping up in YouTube videos and challenging children to engage in self-harm activities. Another version says that children are encouraged to contact special phone numbers using the “WhatsApp” application and may be encouraged to cause self-harm.
Much of this story is not real, according to several reports. There are many claims and warnings about such videos, but experts say there is little proof that Momo’s appearance in kids videos is as widespread as many think it is. It is likely that children who talk about seeing Momo are not seeing it randomly in kids videos or games, but instead are being exposed to it through media coverage or others telling them to “look it up.”
Because we know that many students have been searching for this content online and find upsetting material associated with it, we strongly encourage you to talk to your children about what they are seeing. Although this particular challenge is more of a hoax than a reality, it’s important to remind your child that Momo is not a real person and it cannot directly harm them.
More importantly, we must be aware that similar “games/challenges” are continuously hitting the internet. Rather than warning children about specific dangers such as Momo, the best way we can help our children is by teaching them general guidelines for staying safe online. Parents and caretakers should find time to educate their children about online safety, particularly discouraging them from contacting strangers or sharing personal information.
Parents also should be aware that children sometimes do not report upsetting online interactions for fear that they will get in trouble or be banned from using the internet. Please let your child know that they can also report upsetting online behavior to an adult at school if they are worried about sharing that information with a parent.
If you would like to better inform yourself on this topic and how to keep your child safe, the following resources are a good place to start:
- Protecting Kids Online
- "Don't Panic, What Parents Really Need to Know About the Momo Challenge"
- Snopes report