The Momo Challenge and What We Can Do as Parents
I believe the internet is like a double-edged sword. It can be used for good and bad, depending on who wields it. Lately, though, it’s been more of the latter as news of the “Momo Challenge” surfaced.
What is the Momo Challenge?
The Momo Challenge is considered a “suicide game” wherein a stranger sends threatening images and messages to children over an online messaging app. This stranger would tell its victims that something will happen to them or to their family if they don’t follow his instructions, which would usually involve self-harm.
It’s similar to the Blue Whale Challenge in 2016 that also started in an online messaging app (WhatsApp). What makes the Momo Challenge scarier is that it’s said to be seen in video apps like YouTube and YouTube Kids, where many kids are tuned into these days. The challenge seems to be incorporated into seemingly harmless videos, maybe inserted or as an ad to be clicked.
To frighten kids further, the Momo Challenge uses a character that has long hair, bulging eyes, and a body of a bird. Although in reality, it’s a sculpture made by Japanese special effects group Link Factory called “Mother Bird” for an exhibit. The group is not linked to the Momo Challenge.
The Momo Challenge hit the news worldwide as early as the 3rd quarter of 2018, saying that it has caused some children’s deaths as they followed the Momo’s instructions. In the Philippines, it has been linked to the death of an 11-year-old boy just recently.
Real or Hoax?
It’s been a topic in one of the group chats that I belong to, which includes the moms of my daughter’s classmates. A few of them showed screenshots from Facebook, of a mom from another country warning parents of the challenge.
My FB timeline’s also flooded of topics regarding the Momo Challenge, as I follow a lot of mommy bloggers as well. Some of them were wondering if this was true since they or their kids haven’t encountered anything weird while on YouTube.
In fact, YouTube has released a statement regarding the Momo Challenge through its Twitter account:
Still, we can’t deny that this form of cyberbullying can have real effects, particularly on kids. Being sensitive to the information they receive, they get scared and worse, may follow what they are told to do.
What can we do as parents?
Because the Momo Challenge happens online, the first course of action for parents is to regulate the use of online sites. Mommy blogger Pehpot Pineda posted this photo on how to ensure kids are safe when using YouTube:
But the most important, I believe, is to have an open line of communication between you and your kid. Let’s be honest: this generation thrives on technology. And these kids have easy access to the internet. Whether we like it or not, they are users of technology and we can’t stop it. But I believe we as parents can have the upper hand so that our children will not be exposed to the bad things on the internet.
Besides turning on the safety features of the browsers on your phones and computers, know the sites they are accessing. Ask them if they have encountered something bad or weird online — actually even offline, in the real world. Know who they talk to, if ever they talk to someone online. Be there to listen and to guide them, because there are bad people out there and we want to keep them safe. Assure them that you’ll be there with them to fight off whatever evil things are out there.
I already talked to my eldest about the Momo Challenge and asked her if she knows about it. She said that her classmates have talked about it and are scared of the “Momo.” She told me that she’ll stop accessing online game sites (it’s usually Y8 and the games she plays are not MMO’s) and limit her YouTube usage to viewing music videos. I told her I was okay with that, with the addition of limiting the actual time usage. I even encouraged her to go offline more and just doodle (because she likes doing that).
Whether or not the Momo Challenge is real, we shouldn’t take this issue lightly. This form of bullying — any form for that matter, whether online or offline — should stop. Whoever started this must be a sad soul, to prey on the young and vulnerable.
I really hope this would stop. But for now, let us be up in arms against the bad things lurking in the internet.