How to Talk to Your Kids About the “MoMo Challenge” (or Suicide Game)
If you haven’t by now, with school in session and kids sharing information, you may hear your children ask about the Momo Challenge. Our kids asked about it yesterday, and with the tone of fear escalating, we knew we had to deal with this head on.
What Is It?
There are many article descriptions online, so I will make this brief. A Google search can help elaborate (along with the actual image, but I would suggest refraining from showing it to your child. It’s enough to give an adult nightmares!) Originating from the free WhatApp texting app, an unfamiliar number will text, requesting to be added as a contact. Once the person accepts, a terrifying picture of a woman/chicken hybrid with bulging eyes appears. This image was taken from an Instagram account and used as the contact’s profile picture. “Momo” will then communicate via text messages. She offers the child a “challenge,” convincing the child that she will do harm to them or family members if they don’t comply. Each day the challenge consists of an action causing self harm or harm to others, concluding in instructions to commit suicide. This challenge has been reported world wide, and linked to the death of a 12 year old girl in Buenos Aires. While reports of the challenge began in March of 2018, a recent hack into Minecraft has caused Momo to chase players as an avatar, (which Microsoft is working on diligently), and images have appeared in YouTube gaming videos online.
How do we respond?
In our household, we are putting any form of online Minecraft on hold (until the hack is resolved), and only watching YouTube videos if a parent is in the room (until, I dunno, age 35??)
How can we talk to our kids about it to dispel rumors, but not cause fear?
Once Momo dissipates, a new threat will arise, so it’s best to deal with it now. Before Momo, we had the Slender Man, followed by Blue Whale. Here are some of the things we told our children, and may be useful information to pass along:
- Remove the mystery of the monster:
Momo was a sculpture innocently created by a talented artist named Midori Hayashi in Tokyo, Japan. In the way we enjoy drawing monsters and unusual characters, Mr. Hayashi is able to create his characters in a more realistic form. Proud of his work, he posted a picture of Momo on Instagram with no intention of his image being stolen for this nefarious game. The image thief is most likely a teenager or young adult who thinks the power and news reports are exhilarating and feed his or her ego.
- Remove the power of the monster:
Momo has absolutely no power. Never accept a message from an unknown messenger or caller on any app. If you for some reason do, understand that Momo does not have any of your information, and is lying if she says she does. Do not answer any question and immediately inform an adult. It is easy to make mistakes on media (adults do it all the time!), so always let an adult know what kind of images or messages you see. Hopefully it will be stories of stumbling cats or funny sports clips, but it’s sometimes sad, creepy, or strange things, and adults can help navigate through this.
- Answer the “why”.
If it’s scary and hurtful, why would it be created, and why would children comply? This was the first question our children had, and I marvel at their innocence. Well, maybe naivety, but nonetheless, a very different response from my preteen self in the mid-80’s. I grew up with a love/hate relationship with all things Stephen King, The Twilight Zone, and the thrill of “true” ghost stories at slumber parties. There is an adrenaline rush dealing with the paranormal, and for some, having relationships outside of parental approval. We explained that we understand the appeal, but the stakes are too high with the internet. To keep any kind of privileges, our rules must be obeyed.
- Keep the dialogue open
There may still be questions, and even curiosity from your child. Let your kid know that you are always happy to discuss the issue further, and if you don’t know the answer, will look it up and report back.
These 4 techniques seemed to squelch our kids immediate concerns, but at the rate these issues arise, we have decided to move to a small secluded island in Micronesia. Care to join?