WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MOMO CHALLENGE
Momo is a sinister ‘challenge’ that has been around for some time. It has recently resurfaced and once again has come to the attention of schools and children across the country. Dubbed the ‘suicide killer game’, Momo has been heavily linked with apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and most recently (and most worryingly)... YouTube Kids. The scary doll-like figure reportedly sends graphic violent images, and asks users to partake in dangerous challenges like waking up at random hours and has even been associated with self-harm. It has been reported that the ‘Momo’ figure was originally created as a sculpture and featured in an art gallery in Tokyo and unrelated to the ‘Momo’ challenge we are hearing about in the media.
Children's videos being 'hijacked'
There have been recent reports that some seemingly innocent videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids (such as ‘surprise eggs’, unboxing videos and Minecraft videos) have been edited by unknown sources to include violence provoking and/or other inappropriate content. Even though YouTube monitor and remove videos that include inappropriate content, clips can be uploaded and viewed thousands of times before they get reported and removed. As a parent, it’s difficult to spot these videos as the harmful content doesn’t appear until partway through the video.
Distressing for children
Popular YouTubers and other accounts have been uploading reaction videos, showing their experience of the MOMO challenge. Some of the videos include a disclosure message warning that the content may be “inappropriate or offensive to some audiences” and that “viewer discretion is
advised” but these videos are still easily accessed by clicking ‘I understand and wish to proceed’. The image of the ‘Momo’ character can be deeply distressing to children and young people and it’s
important to note that it may slip through parental settings and filters.
suggested videos on you tube
Video apps such as YouTube include an ‘up next’ feature which automatically starts playing another video based on the video just watched. Due to YouTube’s algorithm, users are shown ‘suggested videos’ that they may be interested in. The thumbnails used on suggested videos are purposefully
created in a way to encourage viewers to click them. During our research, we found that when watching one Momo related video, we were shown countless other Momo themed videos and other scary content which would be age-inappropriate for children under 18.
tips for parents and carers
Tell them it's not real
Just like any urban legend or horror story, the concept
can be quite frightening and distressing for young
people. Whilst this may seem obvious, it’s important
for you to reiterate to your child that Momo is not a
real person and cannot directly harm them! Also, tell
your child to not go openly searching for this content
online as it may only cause more distress.
It’s important for you, as a parent or carer, to be
present while your children are online. This will give
you a greater understanding of what they are doing
on their devices, as well as providing you with the
opportunity to discuss, support and stop certain
activities that your child may be involved in. As the
nature of each task become progressively worse it’s
also important to recognise any changes in your
Talk regularly with your child
As well as monitoring your child’s activity, it’s
important for you discuss it with them too. Not only
will this give you an understanding of their online
actions, but those honest and frequent conversations
will encourage your child to feel confident to discuss
issues and concerns they may have related to the
device settings and parental controls
Ensure that you set up parental controls for your
devices at home. This will help to restrict the types of
content that your child can view, as well as help you to
monitor their activity. In addition to this, it’s vital that
you are aware of your device and account settings to
ensure your child’s utmost safety. For example, on
YouTube you can turn off ‘suggested auto-play’ on
videos to stop your child from viewing content that
they have not directly selected.
Trends and viral challenges can be tempting for
children to take part in; no matter how dangerous or
scary they seem. Make sure you talk to your child
about how they shouldn’t succomb to peer pressure
and do anything they are not comfortable with, online
or offline. If they are unsure, encourage them to talk to
you or another trusted adult.
real or hoax
As a parent it is natural to feel worried about certain
things you see online that may be harmful to your
child. However, not everthing you see online is true.
Check the validity of the source and be mindful of
what you share as it may only cause more worry.
report and block
You can’t always rely on parental controls to block
distressing or harmful material. People find ways
around a platform’s algorithm in order to share
and promote this type of material. Due to this, we
advise that you flag and report any material you
deem to be inappropriate or harmful as soon as
you come across it. You should also block the
account/content to prevent your child from
viewing it. Also encourage your child to
record/screenshot any content they feel could be
malicious to provide evidence in order to escalate
the issue to the appropriate channels.
Speak to the safeguarding lead within your child’s
school should you have any concerns regarding
your child’s online activity or malicious content
that could affect them.
If your child sees something distressing, it is
important that they know where to go to seek help
and who their trusted adults are. They could also
contact Childline where a trained counsellor will
listen to anything that’s worrying them.