Over the last few days, I have been inundated by messages from schools and parents about the Momo Challenge. The first thing I’d like to say is, let’s all take a breath and relax.
1) The Momo Challenge is a hoax. It is not true. This urban legend started a while ago, but has recently flared up again and gone viral here in the US.
Just to make clear – There is no evil Momo sending texts to children telling them to harm themselves or commit suicide. And so far, there is NO evidence that kids’ YouTube videos have been spliced with content from “Momo.” This is not to say that some idiot won’t start doing it now that everyone is freaking out.
2) Many parents are contributing to the problem by sharing inaccurate Facebook posts and getting caught up in the fear-mongering. Parents need to remember that in times of stress, children gain strength by seeing their trusted adults remain calm and in control.
3) The image of “Momo” being shared is indeed scary-looking and can be upsetting to your children. However, it was originally a sculpture made by a Japanese artist and there is nothing supernatural about it.
4) The news media loves a good sensational story and sometimes they choose not to let facts get in the way of a good story.
5) We do need to talk with our students about online safety and responsibility. In my school presentations, I don’t mention Momo directly because I don’t want half the kids to go searching for it after my show. Instead I discuss what to do if they receive something inappropriate or unwanted on their devices and I urge you parents to do the same. This ties into cyber-bullying and sexting. If they receive something scary, inappropriate or offensive, they should not share it with other kids. Instead, you should let them know that they won’t get into trouble if they show you – their parent or trusted adult. These conversations should be ongoing. Rather than responding and drawing attention to specific viral trends, it is preferable to promote responsible online behavior.
6) Our lives are busy and it can seem hard to find time for these important discussions. Why not make your next family dinner device-free? In fact why not make every dinner device-free?
7) This particular viral hoax will die down and another will pop up again in the future. We can use these fads as learning opportunities for us and our children.
Good luck and feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss bringing me to your school or organization to speak with your kids.