The Good that May Come Out of the Momo Challenge Hoax

YouTube's tweet about the Momo Challenge

The Good that May Come Out of the Momo Challenge Hoax

If you’ve been on social media this past week, you have likely seen a shared article about the “Momo Challenge,” an alleged issue on YouTube where child content videos were being spliced with a supposed challenge that encouraged children to harm themselves.  As it turns out, the “Momo Challenge” is the most recent version of an internet urban legend and hoax that has been around for a few years, but because local media outlets didn’t do enough research and saw the attention the story was getting, they gave it unwarranted relevancy.

I could go on for a long time in regards to how we need to do more research in what we accept as factual information in the digital age, but I’d rather focus on the one good thing that came out of this hoax: Parents paying attention to what media their children consume.

Parents today are those who grew up alongside the expansion of media’s presence in everyday life.  We were the first adapters of the internet and the first consumers of cellular telephones.  We grew up using instant messenger on our computers and chat rooms on AOL.  We are the generation that spent time in the arcades and the first to go online to play multiplayer games with others across the globe.  We are leaps and bounds ahead of our parents in regards to what technology, both good and bad, can produce.

We are also a generation who has seen multiple forms of media begin with very innocent objectives quickly become corrupted, whether it’s excessive violence, pornography, or outlandish conspiracy theories.  We have seen firsthand how quickly something pure in a media format can easily be altered, so there shouldn’t be any excuse on not knowing what our children are consuming.

I found it alarming how many parents in recent days have been startled in not knowing if the media their children were consuming could very well be infested with the “Momo Challenge,” and how quickly they wanted to monitor what their children were viewing after reading the now debunked articles.  Even though the “Momo Challenge” isn’t real, there is still PLENTY of disturbing things on digital media that parents need to be made aware of.

If your children watch gaming streams on Twitch, do you know the language being used by the players in those games?  Do you know the comments that are being written alongside those videos? Do you know the content of the games that the streamers are playing in their livestreams?   If you have said “no” or “I don’t know” to any of those questions, you don’t need to wait for another “Momo Challenge” to sit down and watch some of these programs along with your children to find out if they are appropriate for them to watch or not.

I apologize if I come of as righteous while I am writing this article, but we are of a generation that should know better than just assume that anything that is put on a major platform like YouTube or Twitch or on a videogame console will automatically be acceptable for our children.  We grew up in the era that the MPAA expanded their definitions of the rating system, television ratings were created, and the ESRB was developed to help guide parents on the appropriate age groups were for various games.  With the development of all of those systems, they also heavily encouraged parents to screen the programming for themselves first prior to showing it to their children.  We were the first generation of children whose parents were actively encouraged to monitor what their children should watch.

It’s because of this that we need to be more responsible and make sure that we are either knowledable of the media they are consuming, or better yet make it a family event by watching it along with them.  Make the experience an interactive one with your children, not only to find out what your children are watching, but engage with them on what they are watching and making sure they’re not just mindlessly consuming content.  Find out what makes their favorite Twitch streamer entertaining to them, or play co-op in a video game that they are playing.

I can’t fault parents for not wanting to be watching the same programming as their children all of the time, and it’s good to have that separation every once and awhile.  Even during those times, however, it’s important to at least know what your children are watching or playing.

The “Momo Challenge” isn’t real.  But let’s use this as a wakeup call to know exactly what is on our children’s screens so that we know the next time this hoax pops up again we can call it for what it is, all the while knowing that what our kids are watching is safe.

-----

Originally Published on February 28, 2019