Stop talking about Momo...
start talking about actual online problems
In 2016, a Japanese horror-themed art gallery in Tokyo displayed an art piece called “Mother Bird.”
The grotesque statue showed a chimerical mix of a woman and a bird – complete with bird's feet (shaped like hands), stringy hair, bulging eyes, a wide mouth and a bird-like empty expression.
The “Mother Bird” art piece – if it can even be called that – remained mostly unnoticed by the rest of the world (except for some Reddit horror threads where pictures of the “Mother Bird” statue was circulated) until 2018 when a YouTuber named AL3XEITOR uploaded a video for his subscribers.
In AL3XEITOR's video, he shows his audience a picture of a half-woman half-bird creature (the "Mother Bird" statue) and claimed that he planned to 'contact' the being.
After over 10 minutes of AL3XEITOR attempting to contact the bulging-eyed being, the video ended unsuccessfully – but the myth had been created.
Despite the fact that the “Momo” creature in AL3XEITOR's video was nothing more than the “Mother Bird” art statue, a new urban myth had been created and others began to try and 'contact' Momo (much like a Bloody Mary prank) and bring to life the hoax.
The Momo Hoax was given a short run of popularity in 2018 when various online news articles blamed YouTube videos that reportedly featured “Momo” instructing or ordering children to kill themselves for the suicides and deaths of children in Argentina, India, and Columbia.
Law enforcement authorities investigating those deaths never provided a confirmation that the children had even viewed the online “Momo” videos, much less been influenced by them.
That didn't stop American mainstream news media from placing blame and spreading panic to parents.
Eventually, the 2018 Momo Scare died down...only to resurface in February of 2019.
The scare again spread like wildfire – parents shared Facebook posts warning against Momo, claiming that the eerie creature was appearing in segments of YouTube Kids videos.
With a few quick clicks, parents were sharing posts and articles that warned against Momo – never mind that YouTube put out a statement declaring that they had observed no evidence that The Momo Challenge (which reportedly encouraged children to injure themselves) was present on their children's platform.
This wouldn't have been the first time a fake challenge caused panic, such as when news of a “condom challenge” spread, saying that the challenge had caused kids to snort condoms up their nose.
The Condom Challenge's effects turned out to be nothing short of a myth and even some hoax researchers believe the well-known “Tide Pod Challenge” that encouraged kids to eat tide pods was little more than an internet urban myth.
Once, humankind gathered around fires and believed stories about faeries that stole away unsuspecting travelers and children, or women who clawed their way out of coffins to suck the blood of former lovers – now, we believe in every single internet fable that gets placed in our laps.
Hoax experts have called Momo and other such challenge-related concerns the “logical evolution” of folklore.
Despite the fact that mommy bloggers, parent YouTubers, and mainstream media anchors warn against the dangers of The Momo Challenge, there remains one very important detail that continues to look me in the face: no adult has seen Momo appear in any child's video.
Momo remains an omnipresent entity residing just out of reach: Facebook parents declare that their child 'lost sleep' after seeing Momo on a YouTube Kids video, or that their child was encouraged to “not tell them” about Momo...but no parent, Youtube expert nor hoax researcher has set eyes on the half-bird woman in any child's video.
Though it could be likely that there are videos created by online pranksters who want to further the Momo hoax - that content has not been found on the children's platform and YouTube has stated that they would remove such content even from the adult-side of YouTube if it was discovered.
That's not to say the internet is not a dangerous and disturbing place for kids.
YouTube Kids has a track record of accidentally letting disturbing content slip through its automated system.
Kids might click on an innocent-looking Peppa the Pig, Disney Princess or Mickey Mouse videos and end up watching graphic and disturbing content in both violence and sexuality.
Even for older children viewers, popular gaming reviewers or YouTuber personalities frequently spatter their videos with language, adult content and violence.
In addition, a pedophile ring knowingly operates within YouTube and encourages children to post videos that seem innocent enough to a child (such as gymnastic stunts, eating popsicles or dancing) but can be paused and screen captured in order to catch the child in various poses.
Momo might not be a real phenomenon, but countless other internet threats reside online to the peril of plugged-in kids, such as phishing scams, cyberbully, cyber predators and more. The internet is a big, scary place even for adults, but especially for children.
Before spreading paranoia over the next potentially fake internet panic, do the research and look further than just the first mommy-blogger post that cites concerns.
Keep in mind, also, that the internet was not built for kids; online algorithms are not kid-friendly and social media will never be completely safe for young users.
The Momo Challenge, the Tide Pod Challenge, the Condom Challenge may all be false challenges that terrify parents more than they attract kids to partake – but there are real-life dangers on the World Wide Web.
The solution to these threats is not parental paranoia, but respectful and open conversations with your children about the internet, it's dangers and safe ways to use it.