My instinct is to joke about it. To make fun of the whole thing, to poke fun at the people who fall for it, to bemoan the dumb victims and their bad parents.
But he whole thing is so twisted it makes my stomach churn. These are little kids.
No matter how desperately I wish it were funny, the Momo Challenge isn’t a joke. Real or not, the prospect is terrifying.
It was already a pain to have to worry about Minecraft and “Paw Patrol” melting my kids’ brains, now I have to worry about some lunatics provoking them into stabbing themselves?
If you don’t know, the Momo Challenge is a (possibly apocryphal urban legend) in which a scary, grotesquely stretched face pops up in the middle of videos on YouTube Kids and challenges the children watching them to perform various acts of increasing danger and severity, potentially culminating in committing suicide.
If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, I don’t know what will. Maybe the face itself? Shelley Duvall has seen better days.
Haha Shelley Duvall! I found some room to joke after all! I gotta be me, I guess. But to be honest, when it comes to someone potentially embedding evil messages inside YouTube videos to make young kids harm themselves and/or others, you have to laugh to keep yourself from crying.
My toddler watches YouTube Kids! Sorry, watched.
As I alluded to with the link to Snopes above, it seems like reports of the Momo Challenge are largely exaggerated. The same way the old threats of someone putting glass in candy bars or Ozzy Osbourne songs secretly containing subliminal messages or Dungeons and Dragons promoting devil worship were bullshit, Momo probably is too. But when something targets our kids, parents tend to get a little crazy. (Especially since children are stupid. We all like to think ours are smarter than the stupid ones, but they’re all dumb. At least until their mid-twenties.)
It doesn’t help that fears about technology are increasing, thanks to legitimate issues like the seemingly constant privacy scandals and generally toxic atmosphere on social media, deep fake videos, actual “fake news” stories like PizzaGate and whatever else Alex Jones is hoodwinking people about, etc.
There is an increasing reliance on screens both in our everyday lives as independent adults and as parents of children who have more exposure to technology than ever. Frankly, kids need that exposure as the world goes increasingly digital. But it makes the specter of someone manipulating that technology to harm our kids an easy touch point for paranoia.
I don’t want to add to it. I don’t know if the Momo Challenge is a legitimate threat. It seems unlikely – my kids are unaware of it, though some people have apparently had real experiences with something that’s at least similar. Regardless, it should be more than clear by this point that letting children have un-monitored use of technology is potentially harmful, whether or not they’re going to be dared to commit violence.
I’m not a big hand-wringer over the effects of violent media on kids – so long as you keep an eye on what your kids consume, provide them the right context, and educate them on the difference between fiction and reality, not to mention right and wrong, they should be largely okay. (I saw Aliens in the theater when I was 9 and I’ve never face-hugged anyone!) It comes down to parenting.
Talk to your kids. Not just about screen time, but about peer pressure, and critical thinking, and self-confidence. About not blindly following along with someone else’s bad ideas, whether it’s jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge or punching yourself in the face at the behest of an online ghoul or joining in when someone starts picking on another kid. We need to raise our kids to think for themselves, to realize that friendship isn’t based on bullying or control, and that popularity is bullshit, especially when it’s built around power and groupthink.
All of this is easier said than done, but it all needs to be said. Repeatedly. So that when a deranged Shelley Duvall whispers in their ear, your voice rings more loudly.
And if the Momo Challenge is real, whoever is doing that better watch out. Because no one is gonna endanger my kids’ screen time. I need it more than they do!