Momo. We’ve all seen her (which is why I won’t be posting that photo of that God-awful sculpture.) relax, she’s not going to pop up anywhere.
This Momo thing has gotten completely out-of-hand. There are a lot of people commenting on the issue without fully understanding what’s going on, so let me break down some of the major points:
- About 7 months ago, a YouTube video was posted by a creator titled something like “Momo Challange- Scary” the video depicts the older teen/20-something woman texting an unknown number through WhatsApp (a free texting app that includes a free phone number) She says the number could be one of 3, so she texts them and one responds. We never see the phone number because it’s blurred out. “Momo” sends creepy macabre photos and texts.
- The Momo Challenge then gains traction, but the numbers people are texting are more than likely never shown. Which means it could be ANYONE on the other side. A friend or family member faking to be Momo just so they can earn the views. Each rendition of the challenge gets more exaggerated and more hectic as the creators are trying to get the most views and ad revenue.
- The Fine Brothers channel, home to the React videos, features the Momo Challenge, but unbeknownst to the guests that are being interviewed, there is an assistant in the room texting them through WhatsApp. Here is the link to that video (Safe for work, not necessarily safe for kids but almost all expletives are bleeped.) https://youtu.be/_dQ3tFoAfAo
- Sometime between the rise of the Momo Challenge on YouTube, some began attributing Momo to the deaths of kids and teens in Brazil and other countries. Law enforcement have said that Momo was not involved in any of the four cases of suicide and accidental deaths. This is the urban legend evolving and being opportunistic with tragedies.
- People claim they or their children have seen supposedly kid-friendly videos with clips of Momo spliced into them. As of right now, I have yet to see an “authentic” one, but have seen several examples that were uploaded (and immediately taken down) after Momo recently leaked into mainstream culture.
Ok, now that you’re caught up, let’s talk about YouTube. A lot of parents today grew up in a void. They had the rise of the internet happen during their childhood but never really had access to it while it was becoming more popular, but their young children were born into the world with the internet essentially tied into their umbilical cords.
Parents may not be aware that YouTube videos featuring popular cartoon characters can be easily created in computer programs by regular people and made to do whatever the video creator wants. So, while the character may look and sound like Peppa Pig or the Paw Patrol characters, the content could be completely inappropriate.
The content creators on YouTube can take any character and make them do whatever they want. They can also title the video with tons of keywords to make sure it’s seen by the most people (or their children) looking for those characters.
Egg videos are an absolute nightmare for me, but for children— they are like little hits of endorphins each time a toy is opened. These toy channels gain massive popularity and millions of views because the kids will sit there for hours watching them if they are allowed. Malicious content creators can take advantage of these too by splicing in unsavory clips or using the same keywords as those very popular surprise videos, ensuring that kids stumble upon them while in a “click-hole” (clicking recommended videos in the sidebar that feature similar content or allowing content to auto-play through this list). Here is a TED Talk about how and why YouTube click-holes are so dangerous: https://youtu.be/v9EKV2nSU8w
But, let’s be honest here. Malicious content has ALWAYS existed on the internet. And there are tons of other, legitimate sources for your child’s entertainment. PBS Kids, Nick Jr, Disney all have their own apps. The Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime apps also have kid-friendly content.
What if your child HAS to have YouTube? Be vigilant. Think about creating a playlist of approved videos and only allowing your child access to those videos. Alternatively, if you feel so inclined, you could sign up for YouTube Premium (they allow downloading of videos directly in the app AND no commercials) and download approved videos, then when handing the device over, be sure to turn off access to the internet so they are locked into the approved library only.
Also, be aware that your child could be getting access to YouTube without your permission at a friends house or with other family members or parents. Make sure they are all on the same page.
Momo is a creepy statue, the urban legends surrounding her are hoaxes, and people on the internet have always been malicious. Please try to educate yourself on child-locking your apps and devices, Google “how to child lock *app name*” for a start if you don’t know how to do it.