By: Em Cruz
If you’re a parent who spends a few minutes of each day in social media sites such as Facebook, then you’re probably familiar with the so-called Momo challenge and the number of self-harm videos found in supposedly kid-friendly content. And if you’re a parent who might have relied on such video apps for a few minutes of peace from your kids each day, then understandably, you would be concerned by the discovery of such things. But before we hit that panic button, what exactly are these challenges and videos? And are they really harmful to our kids?
What is the Momo Challenge?
The Momo challenge is said to be a suicide challenge game that targets children and is popularly symbolized in social media by a creepy (terrifying actually!) –looking woman with bulging eyes, straggly hair, and angled thin mouth. This “woman” thing is Momo, who supposedly contacts kids. Contact is said to be triggered by searching for a special phone number online and then sending a text or WhatsApp message to the said number. The player then enters into a text conversation with Momo wherein distressing images and a number of challenges – ranging from waking up at certain times to do self-harm or even suicide are sent.
Aside from messages, it is said that interest in the Momo challenge or game is further intensified by YouTubers supposedly trying it out – most of which are also fake. At the same time, kids learn of the challenge through customized video games such as Roblox and Minecraft, where they see Momo-themed costumes created and shared by other players.
Perhaps the appeal of the Momo challenge can be attributed to a number of people’s curiosity with scary and horror themes, and the concept of “online chain letters.” And sadly, with the amount and speed of information posted on the Internet, even such detrimental content is shared brazenly.
Suicide videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids
Aside from the Momo challenge, another concern is this mom’s discovery of self-harm videos in both YouTube Kids and YouTube. A number of parents prefer using YouTube Kids for their kids because it is supposedly more kid and family-friendly than the regular YouTube platform. But it turns out this might not necessarily be so, as a few moms have found video clips of a person or even kiddie characters instructing kids how to harm themselves spliced in the middle of cartoons or kiddie videos. This means that even if the video might seem kid-friendly, it’s not always the case as these clips might just be waiting a few minutes in.
What can parents do?
Outright banning devices/screens and even platforms might not be feasible, especially for older kids. And warning them of specific dangers such as the Momo challenge and the said videos might not work as well, as chances are, kids will know of trends earlier than their parents (so your warning might be too late). So the best thing parents might be able to do is to instill good online practices to their kids, such as these simple ones:
- Tell your kids that they should never try to contact strangers online, regardless of the method or reasons in doing so. You can also set privacy systems and agree on certain precautions.
- Promote an open and trusting environment with your kids in terms of their online activities. Ensure that they feel safe enough to talk to you about anything, including these issues. However, be wary if you notice them switching screens on their devices when approached or new numbers or emails on their devices. Both might be good instances to check in on them to be sure.
- Make video games and YouTube video watching a family activity, or keep both in shared family spaces. At the same time, you can also set-up restrictions on friends and content in these apps.
The bottom line is, such challenges and videos are another reminder to us parents that it’s a big bad world out there. And even if we try, we can’t always protect our kids all the time. So the best way to ensure their safety is to properly prepare and equip them with the right tools and know-how to discern and protect themselves.
Em is MomCenter’s editor and a doting mom to a decisive yet sweet daughter. When she doesn’t have her hands full of motherhood, she moonlights as a geek and bibliophile. Follow her mom-adventures via her Instagram.