No, I didn’t include a picture. I didn’t want to play my part in sensationalizing the newest media trend.
At this point, you’ve probably heard a variety of anecdotes and rumors about “Momo” and the “Momo Challenge.” Maybe you’ve only heard of it in passing or listened in on the conversations your classmates were having about the “scary chicken lady” who’s out to encourage self-harm. I’m sure you felt the same utter shock and terror as I did when you first found out and believed it to be true. How could anyone have such ill intentions towards children?
Thankfully, the truth has come out. And it’s not in line with any of the rumors that spread like wildfire through our mouths and our media. Here’s everything you need to know about “Momo”:
- It was nothing but “moral panic” spread by adults. Momo never truly existed. On February 26, 2019, Wanda Maximoff tweeted about Momo with seemingly good intentions: to “inform everyone [she could]” about the media monster out to harm children. Already afraid of the internet’s influence on children, parents wildly retweeted, desperately trying to warn fellow mothers and fathers of their common virtual enemy. The tweet spread rapidly, to say the least, and the Momo Challenge Hoax had begun. Even Kim Kardashian warned her hundred million followers. You can imagine what kind of impact that action would have on making Momo viral. An extreme case of mass hysteria, yes, but (thankfully) not an actuality.
- It’s not new. First appearing as “Mother Bird,” artist Keisuke Aisawa presented Momo at a Japanese horror exhibition, Momo began gleaning attention in the summer of 2018.
- It was never on Youtube Kids. As the story goes, Momo supposedly made an appearance online in the midst of an episode of “Peppa Pig,” teaching children how to harm themselves and then leaving the scene. Thankfully, “the Samaritans and the NSPCC have dismissed the claims, saying that while there is no evidence that the Momo challenge has initially caused any harm itself.” Furthermore, the two organizations warn us that, “the ensuing media hysteria could now be putting vulnerable people at risk by encouraging them to think of self-harm.” Youtube itself has also dismissed the claims, as they haven’t found any evidence indicating that Momo ever appeared on their platform.
- Sensationalizing Momo only makes the situation worse. Though Momo on its own had no real effect on the world’s children, continuing to discuss Momo might inadvertently bring about the same issue we’ve been trying to eradicate. As the harmful content manager at the UK Safer Internet Centre Kat Tremlett puts it, “Even though it’s done with best intentions, publicizing this issue has only piqued curiosity [and terror] among young people.” Though discussion about self-harm and mental health is absolutely crucial when done in a healthy matter, sensationalizing and romanticizing such ideas can only lead to pain.
Discussion is not gossip. Discussion is a purposeful aim at bettering someone’s personal situation. It’s possible to discuss Momo, but it’s not happening just yet.
If you’ve been affected by the rampage of media coverage on Momo, or are suffering from any suicidal or self-harm thoughts, please don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.