Parents, be aware of ‘The Momo Challenge’

What is called “The Momo Challenge” is gaining enough traction that some schools on Kauai are sending home notices warning parents about it.

Should all parents be concerned? It depends on who you’re asking.

But first, let’s look at one note on this issue that went out from a charter school. We understand similar ones went out to public schools as well:

As you know, the safety of your children is our top priority. That’s why it saddens us to alert you about a disturbing social media trend that is prompting conversations among our learners – and in schools across the country – and requires all of our immediate attention.

The “Momo Challenge” involves a character that reportedly appears in online videos urging children to commit violent acts, including suicide. The character also apparently suggests that children turn on stoves while family members are asleep, and threatens them against telling parents about their plans. News reports indicate the character may be an urban myth and a fabricated “modern-day ghost story,” but because the online trend has generated numerous conversations among our learners, we wanted to share some important information with you.

Our site directors, facilitators and staff will be listening closely for conversations about the “challenge” and will intervene with learners, but we also encourage you to have an honest dialogue with your children about issues of self-harm. Our trauma counselors will also be available to help guide these conversations, and facilitators may choose to direct learners to counselors on site if they deem it necessary. Of course, we would also encourage you to limit your children’s exposure to this online content whenever possible. We recommend utilizing Common Sense Media, an excellent website with resources for parents and educators. You can find informational activities on the site and lessons broken down by age and grade levels. We are committed to working in partnership with parents to give learners the digital citizenship tools they need to make safe choices online. And, if anyone in your family needs additional support or counseling, we urge you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

As always, please know that we are here for you and your families. Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of your children.

Before parents react, there are some who say this isn’t anything to worry about, that it’s a hoax, that it’s just another challenge that comes with using the internet. Stuff like this comes and goes, they say. That said, we don’t believe parents should just ignore it, either. We do know that children are easily influenced by what they see and hear not just from friends, but on the internet. Whether something is true or false, if it’s floating around on the internet there are some who will believe it, share it, promote it, and encourage others to do the same.

The best way for parents to react would be to pay attention to what your children are watching and learning on the internet. Most of it may be perfectly harmless. But some of it could be harmful, even if not directly. There’s a lot of stuff out there your kids don’t need to see. Don’t count on your children to tell you everything they view on YouTube. They won’t. And don’t count on their discretion. Youth don’t often show much discretion. Even if youth watch something they might find troubling, it’s unlikely they’ll share it with their parents. Rather, they might tell their friends about it. They’ll experiment with it, if they can. They’ll pursue it because that’s what being young and careless is about.

Parents need to be vigilant about what their children are watching online. We’re not saying ban everything. But we are saying, better to be overprotective with your kids than to act like the material they watch doesn’t matter and won’t affect them. It can. And it will. And it will for the worse if we’re not careful.

The Momo Challenge may not be anything to worry about. But it doesn’t sound like anything that should be discounted, either. Parents, there is a solution and it’s up to you. Be sure to maintain some level of oversight when it comes to the internet and your kids. Your children are your most precious gifts. Take care of them.


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