*Disclaimer from the author: while I am now working in IT again, this article contains my sole opinion. I was not asked to write this article. I wanted to raise awareness through a Public Service Announcement out of my own desire. The views/ideas/opinions expressed in this article are my own and may not reflect the views of my employer – CRSD, my ministry overhead – LightShine Ministries, my credential holders -Hope of the Nations, nor my current home church in Alaska – Tazlina Fellowship.
What is was…
I hope that all of you who clicked on this blog are already aware of “momo” or the “momo challenge.” The ‘challenge’ went viral this past Summer (2018) in July. I have spoken to many friends, coworkers, and community members since the ‘resurgence’ of the Momo videos over the weekend. To my surprise, many people didn’t know about it and thanked me for informing them. But the kids I work with? They know all about it…
In case you are not aware, it is a viral video where a creepy Japanese doll is used to tell kids to harm themselves among other acts. If the children do not do these activities, for example: leave the oven on but not telling their parents, then “momo” will come to them and curse their family. The urban legend is that the only way to break this curse once it is in place is for the child to commit suicide.
What it is now…
The news media and social media have declared this to be a viral video hoax. While the videos did exist, they are claiming it did not influence anyone to actually participate in the various self-harm acts. From the research I did over the weekend, the recent resurgence is more out of fear from parents than a malicious resurgence by whoever created these videos last summer. It is common for viral videos to get a second wind. The sources I researched have not found any evidence of these videos connecting to recent incidents of self-harm/child suicides. However, this was brought up as a prayer request from a friend of mine at church on Sunday (3/3/19). His niece had told him that kids were talking about the challenge at a sporting event. As a result, she deleted YouTube and all of her social media to avoid seeing it.
The good news is that YouTube is taking this very seriously. You cannot find any versions of this video. YouTubers who discuss it are no longer receiving advertising revenue on their channels. The videos were also found on Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook. I think it is important to raise awareness around issues like this, hoax or not. Things like this have occurred (more in the vein of suicide pacts) in Japanese culture, which is where the doll comes from. While the doll was not created for this purpose, I think it is wise to be informed.
What we should do now…
Don’t give in to fear, first and foremost.
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV)
What we need to do now is talk. Talk about it with your children/family, your neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Raise awareness in case it resurfaces later on, a copy-cat is created, or something similar happens again. Even if something like this is currently a hoax, or was declared a hoax because no evidence links it to actual events, it still needs to be taken seriously.
At school, we are trained to take any statement about suicide seriously. In the same vein, a hoax shouldn’t be glossed over. What should happen is an open dialogue with your children. Use this as a way to remind them about online safety. Perhaps this is the perfect reason you need to encourage a healthy break from YouTube, Social Media, or screens altogether.
If I were you I would keep my kids off YouTube (I’m a single male with no kids). Even YouTube for kids is NOT safe without adult supervision. YouTube is under heavy fire right now for becoming a breeding ground of predators it has allowed to exist on its platform. For one example, your child may be watching an innocent toy unboxing. But 2 minutes in, it suddenly changes to that toy being mutilated with a knife or scissors and fake blood. Then it cuts back to innocence so the parent is none the wiser. It is so bad that major companies are pulling their ads from YouTube until it is fixed.
Social media aside, this is a great opportunity to teach children that it is not okay to be coerced into something harmful by anyone. What a great way to use a current trend to dispel fear and begin an open conversation about peer pressure. Or even stay on the topic of electronic communication and the growing issue of cyberbullying.
Feel free to ask any questions and leave comments below. If you didn’t know about anything you just read, would you mind telling me in the comments below? I’m curious as to how many of my readers are familiar with this ‘challenge.’ Also, could you give this blog a like to help spread the word? Please consider sharing it on your social media platforms. As always, thanks for reading.
My two main sources. The others contained images of the creepy statue so I did not include them.
Loudoun County Schools Warn Parents about Internet Hoax “Momo”
Youtube Demonetizing Momo
Two sites I recommend for safety tips online.
Norton Internet Safety 101
Homeland Security Safety Tips
Author: A. P. Smither
Editor: P. J. Walk