Hope Hall has a five-year-old daughter who spends time on her tablet playing educational games and watching videos on YouTube Kids. Hall did not know that his daughter would soon be the victim of the latest social media game, involving a character named "Momo".
"It was new to me, I saw everyone talking about it and at first I thought it was probably a hoax," Hall said. The thought of a hoax was quickly eliminated after Hall showed his daughter an image of the macabre figure.
"Her face became completely empty and she started to shake her head, so I left her alone," she said. Later on Tuesday night, Hall said her daughter had called her in her room with her fiance to talk. She started telling Hall how she knew "Mr. Smiley".
"I asked her why she had not told Mom earlier and she told me because she was going to get into her room at night," Hall said. After questioning her daughter, she learned that a video with "Momo" had been seen during the video she was watching on YouTube Kids. She said the video encourages children not to tell their parents about it, otherwise they will hurt them and their families.
"Now that I'm educated on this, it's very scary and it's a very serious thing and the kids are scared," she said. Now Hall has removed YouTube Kids from her daughter's tablet.
"I'm really happy that we have a relationship that would allow her to come talk to me," she said.
Hall said his advice to parents is to start having conversations with their kids about "Momo" to let them know that it's not real and do not be scared.
"Make sure your child is comfortable coming to talk to you about anything," she said. Hall said that she had contacted YouTube and is still waiting for an answer. She told another mother to whom she had spoken that she had contacted YouTube and that she had been told that it did not exist.
Another mother who did not want to be identified spoke to KRCG 13 and said that her daughter had experienced a very similar situation. That's when she showed her daughter a picture of "Momo" that she discovered that her daughter had seen her watching YouTube Kids. She said that her daughter had drawn an empty face and did not want to talk with her at first because she had said "Momo" had said to say nothing to her parents. Her daughter then ordered her to lock the doors and call 911. Since then, she has had a conversation with her daughter about the fact that "Momo" was not real and she still has him talked about nothing.
When children participate in the challenge, they contact a stranger pretending "Momo" with the help of the image and communicate primarily via the WhatsApp messaging application, owned by Facebook. Momo encourages a participant to perform various tasks if he wishes to avoid being "cursed". Momo asks the participant to provide photographic evidence to continue the game. In the end, the game ends when Momo tells the participant to commit suicide and register for social media.
However, YouTube Kids scared, and "Momo" appears during the video that a child is watching making requests and scares.
The "Momo Game" or "Momo Challenge" gained international recognition last summer and was originally considered a hoax, quickly becoming a widespread meme. In August 2018, police investigated Momo's influence over the death of a 12-year-old child in Argentina, worrying parents around the world about the potentially real dangers of the challenge.
The original image of "Momo" is a sculpture called "Mother Bird" by Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa, exhibited in 2016 at the Vanilla Gallery in Tokyo. According to CBS News, there is no indication that Aisawa, Link Factory, participated in the creation or execution of the Momo Challenge.
Dr. Laine Young-Walker, Chief of the MU Health Division for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said it was important that parents be involved from the very beginning. start on what their child is watching online.
"It does not start when something worrisome like this appears, it starts when they start using social media and computers," she said.
Young-Walker said parents should encourage children from an early age. Thus, their child is not afraid to approach them when something similar appears online.
"When they hear not talking to your parents, then maybe that will make them think that they are not safe," she said.
In this case, when the "Momo" character resorted to fear and intimidation, Young-Walker stated that the children did not always think about the consequences of such a situation and thought that "it's not safe for them." they had to do what they saw.
"Now that all this has come out and people are aware of it, parents need to have a communication about it in particular," she said. She said that parents should make sure that they insist that their children come to talk to them about anything, that it is not real, that things said are not true and that it will not hurt you.
Young-Walker said the use of technology in children is getting younger as time goes by and open conversations should take place.
"It's important that parents start with education, it's a tool that can be very helpful, but let me teach you how to use it effectively", a- she declared.