We want to address the “MoMo challenge” as it has been making its way around social media groups and other media sources. First and most importantly, this challenge is a hoax in how it is being broadcasted. This challenge has been around now for about two years, but it has recently resurfaced over the last few weeks. It is important to note that some really good investigative reporting has found that there HAS NOT BEEN ONE CREDIBLE DEATH associated with this, but because of the internet, many believe that hundreds of children have taken their lives or self-harmed because of The MoMo Challenge. What is making this challenge dangerous is the parents who are fueling the flames of moral panic (this kind, known as “juvenoia”) based upon inaccurate information that social media can often propagate.
We actually started a discussion on this very topic last week on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/whitehatterteam/
Our engagement with students and our investigations has shown us that the majority of kids online are actually engaging in positive and creative behaviors. In a digital world where anything can be published, there will always be potential for students to come across false or concerning content posted and shared by others. In this circumstance we are talking about MoMo.
The MoMo challenge is, according to Snopes.com, “…a form of cyberbullying prevalent on platforms such as WhatsApp and YouTube, through which children receive anonymous threatening messages tied to pictures of ‘Momo,’ an unrelated sculpture of a grinning figure with dark hair and bulging eyes created by a Japanese special effects. The ‘Momo’ messages allegedly compel youngsters to engage in perilous activities such as taking pills, stabbing other people, and even killing themselves.” Various other sources also have varying definitions, some even claiming it is designed to steal personal information.
This is concern for younger kids online who are coming across content related to the MoMo Challenge and don’t have the parental supervision to help provide guidance towards appropriate and inappropriate content. We need to be educating them about how things online may not be accurate or how they seem. A clear concern is if a child can not recognize between right and wrong and does not show the critical thinking skills to realize when a video is clearly promoting absurd and disturbing content when unsupervised. When young students see this challenge, it can be emotionally and psychologically disturbing, thus why parents need to talk about this content in an enlightening and not a frightening way. The only way that parents can do this, however, is through understanding the TRUE facts of MoMo. Parents should be using the MoMo Challenge as a teachable moment to share with their kids what to do if they see something that causes them concern and how to think more critically about what they see online. Teach children to really ask themselves, “Is this real?” We truly understand the concerns parents have over the MoMo Challenge given the unjustifiable attention it has been getting in the news, but adults have to be very careful that we too don’t get caught up in the moral panic that these hoaxes are often unjustifiably illicit. For those youth who are already experiencing a mental health crisis, when they experience concerning content such as that expressed in the MoMo Challenge, they can be furthered triggered. Yet, the content itself is not the underlying concern. We have attached a few excellent articles to help put perspective to this viral hoax (see list at the bottom).
Over the last few days, we’ve been talking with older teens online and in-person regarding this. These teens often disregard or directly oppose MoMo videos and messages, claiming that these videos are absurd as they are obviously extreme and just trying to illicit fear. This is to be expected, because of the more developed critical thinking skill these teens possess over the younger kids.
From our own research to collect information on where these MoMo videos are supposedly being seen. Our results, not surprisingly, have come up with very little. Many of these informative online sources talking about the MoMo Challenge telling adults to fear it also often fail to provide any primary sources for where these videos are found. This only supports the hyperbolized nature of this moral panic.
- The MoMo Challenge is not nearly as prevalent as is it is being reported
- Enlighten, not frighten
- Ensure younger kids are supervised when online
- Teach good critical thinking skills to kids before they go online unsupervised
- As adults, also have good critical thinking skills when reading reports without primary sources, only hearsay
Talking Points for Your Kids:
1. “Remember that sometimes what you see or read online isn’t true.” If you have the ability to flash up the website https://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/ it is a good example to demonstrate (in a non-threatening way) that although this forest appears to be real, it isn’t”
2. Acknowledge the concern over the graphic nature of this online hoax. Yes, it can be scary, but let them know that there has not been one credible case of a young person who has lost their life because of this.
3. Let students know that if they see content that is disturbing to report it to a teacher, parent, or other adult they trust.
4. Use this hoax as a teachable moment to emphasize critical thinking when seeing or reading things online which circles back to Talking Point #1
5. Maybe think about sending this article to more parents through PAC’s and online groups so that they too become educated on the factual information of this hoax rather than the disinformation that is taking place in social media and even in traditional media.
We hope this helps and again thanks for thinking of us; we are always here to help!
Excellent articles to help put perspective to this viral hoax