What You Should Learn From the ‘Momo Challenge’

Let’s get this out of the way, the ‘Momo Challenge’ is another hoax. It’s a hoax rooted in previous trends. It takes the fear that ‘Blue Whale’ created for teens in Russia, and how sketchy the kid’s section is on ‘YouTube.’

Well, what is the ‘Momo Challenge?’ It’s two things, both of which have no physical evidence backing them up. First, supposedly, clips of a sculpture (not a person or urban legend, look up ‘Momo sculpture’ if you need) are spliced into videos on YouTube Kids, detailing things that you have to do to see ‘Mother Hen.’ It starts out simple, like making a mess in your room. The end of it is committing suicide to finally meet ‘Mother Hen.’ Children who see it are allegedly ‘blackmailed’ into doing it, too.

If you don’t know, the ‘Blue Whale challenge’ was about an app. You download the app and during the course of 50 days, you do a bunch of tasks, all of which were given to you by an ‘administrator’ of the game. Each day you went on, the tasks got more and more disturbing. Self-harm and suicide was a big theme with it. If you failed to do a task, you were told your family or loved ones would be hurt. Once you were in, you had to finish the game. The thing is, on the 50th day, you had to kill yourself.

The debate of if ‘Blue Whale’ was real is still a bit controversial. Someone has been arrested for it in Russia, but the article itself is moreso on the sketchy side.

What about ‘Elsagate,’ though? Elsagate is referring to ‘YouTube Kids,’ which, even now, is still suffering from this. The videos during this little timeline were very disturbing, and usually contained themes of sexual situations, fetishes, drugs, alcohol, you name it. All of it was tied up with a little bow of familiar ‘Disney’ characters (the most notable is the Elsa and Spiderman series, which is where the term got its name), colorful animations, and even live action videos.

The ‘Momo Challenge’ has been overly hyped up by concerned parents and whispered about on FaceBook groups. Nationalonlinesafety.com has even posted a little ‘guide’ on it, causing schools to send out little sheets of paper about it. The thing is, they’re guides, warnings, not telling them to not be as upset over it because it’s a hoax.

Myself and multiple people I know have been taken off to the side by concerned parents, to be given a little talk about the challenge (by the way, it targets people who use ‘YouTube Kids,’ not high schoolers).

However, ‘Blue Whale’ was doing the rounds in 2016, and ‘Elsagate’ went around in 2017. This is very late hysteria, it’s been a bit over a year since even ‘Elsagate’ was around.

I won’t lie, this is a scary topic. It’s something that you’d never wish on anyone, especially family. Yet, you have to look at these dates. ‘Blue Whale’ was for one, so much scarier and realistic than whatever this is. Even if it only targeted Russia, how much it impacted me and people I know was drastically more than the ‘Momo Challenge.’ Even how late parents got to this is scary, because the first hysteria about ‘Momo’ was in 2018. It was originally a ghost story, you were supposed to message a phone number on ‘WhatsApp’ and talk with the ‘sculpture.’

It wasn’t a rehash of ‘Blue Whale.’ That should testify a lot about this trend.

What can we take away from this, though? People are gullible? I disagree. This isn’t about being gullible, this is the fact that people aren’t as used to the internet, and we’re letting this go on. The internet is young, very young compared to a lot of things. We aren’t making that real effort to try and talk to people about this.

You might ask, but didn’t you just say Nationalsafetyonline.com send out a notice about this? Yes, they did, but how did people take that? It makes an effort to present all the right information and how to be careful about it (although I think some of the things they suggest, such as blocking/reporting and using parental controls, shouldn’t be relied on, but that’s for another day), but they present what it is before they say it’s fake. A lot of school letters do this, too.

I don’t think you can try and tell people to ‘talk to their children about online safety’ after scaring them about a new online trend that includes sensitive topics like self-harm. You’ll just scare them more, people usually only hold onto the more important details. “There’s an online trend that includes self-harm” is much more important than “oh it’s fake.”

If you want to actually do something about this,  try and do something more. Instead of when your parent tries to talk to about this, talk with them back about how they can educate themselves about these topics, and know the difference between real and fake.

Letting people just rely on the media isn’t productive. Everyone has experience on these topics, the only difference is sharing that experience. We learn more from each other, and we shouldn’t just expect people to know the things that we know.