The Problems with Momo

video-1606945_1280Chances are, you know who Momo is if you’ve had any access to a screen in the past couple of weeks. According to the initial posts warning about her, the YouTube and YouTube Kids algorithm would include a video in the queue about a creepy-looking, doll-like woman named Momo telling children to hurt, or even kill themselves through a series of challenges after sending her messages via text or WhatsApp.

The conversation about Momo has taken several turns, and is recently starting to quiet down. This is because it has continuously been proven to be a hoax, with no evidence that these videos featuring Momo actually exists. In fact, the only online posts and discussions surrounding Momo were traced back to posts warning parents and other adults to talk to their children about the challenge.

While the Momo Challenge itself was fake, it was still an extreme of the social media challenges youths and adolescents take part of today. Perhaps this is the reason that the fear and worry surrounding it was so validated. Actual social media challenges such as the cinnamon and Bird Box challenges have been mostly conducted by children and young adults and often involve participating in dangerous activities and posting them online.

Image by alphalight1 on Pixabay

Image by alphalight1 on Pixabay

The Momo Challenge, or lack thereof, also speaks to the dangers about how misinformation can make an issue that doesn’t originally exist real, and bringing it up can cause the consequences that those talking about it are trying to avoid. It can seem confusing at first, but most children are hearing about Momo from adults and not each other or on social media. Parents and teachers trying to keep these kids safe actually increase their curiosity about the troubling subject and they start looking up a topic that they hadn’t known about before. Those who are at risk or vulnerable to self-harm or mental illness may start to think more about it too now that they are exposed to the subject.

These are important items to keep in mind, not just for children, but for adults too, when approaching how to interpret and then discuss troubling content online, especially with those with mental illnesses and can be triggered by topics such as self-harm and suicide. Education and safety is important, but so is tracing back the origins of a news story and whether they come from legitimate sources.

To read more about parents’ and children’s relationship with social media challenges and safety and how the Momo Challenge became the conversation that it was today, check out the following articles below:

Momo Is Not Trying to Kill Children (The Atlantic)
The ‘Momo Challenge’ isn’t a viral danger to children online. But it sure is viral. (The Washington Post)


Where and who did you hear about the Momo Challenge from? What do you think about social media challenges? How do you think adults can talk to children and adolescents about sensitive material online without giving them false information?

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Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: https://sova.pitt.edu/i-need-help-now We look forward to talking to you!

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