So in the last few days, Momo has come into our lives, and my kids are terrified and not able to go asleep! This is the game that encourages children to self-harm and consider suicide; – firstly what kind of sick people are there in the world that would come up with this? And secondly, I know I’m not the most technical person in the world, but how is it still even operating and how has it not been taken down / or how have the ads not been cancelled?
What I really want to discuss here, is how to help with the terrifying image and stories that are frightening our kids. In order to warn kids about this game, parents and teachers have been discussing it with them – and rightly so, they should know. My kids are not online very much – one hour per day at the weekend ‘officially’, but they are listening to all the schoolyard talk and rumours about Momo. Both my 8 and 9 year old have been afraid going to bed at night and woken up a few times over Momo. My 8-year-old is afraid that Momo is under her bed, and she believes that she can hypnotize you into killing yourself – she woke up at 2 in the morning and we got the light out to show her there was nothing but a mess under her bed. My 9-year-old is afraid, even though she knows its just an image and a game, it’s got her spooked.
Here are a few tips to help with Momo fears:
- Imagination: Explain that its just a picture, someone drew on a computer (the person who drew it, wanted it to be scary so made the eyes big and dark, and gave her a weird big smile.) Allow them to be the artist and ask them what is it that makes it creepy? How would they draw a creepy face. This allows them to see that it is just the end result of someone else’s imagination. It’s not real.
- Halloween: Remind them of all the scary stuff they see at Halloween, monsters, ghosts, zombies out side peoples houses and in the shops, Momo is not that different to some of those images.
- Self-harm: Most younger kids don’t understand the meaning of self-harm. I’ve told my kids that a child would have to be pretty stupid to actually hurt themselves, just because a game told them to. I mean who would seriously do that? (I don’t use the word stupid often with my kids, but I used it quite a bit recently when discussing MoMo.)
- No Evidence: My kids didn’t believe me when I read out from the paper that there has been no actual evidence that anyone has been injured because of the MoMo challenge (Irish Independent 26/02/19). They responded that a child had used a knife to draw a fish on their hand, and the picture was shown to a class by a Teacher (I’m not sure anymore what is true, and what is an urban myth). My response again was to say how stupid anyone would be to do this to themselves.
- Show them a picture of Momo: My kids were terrified of all the talk and hype, about seeing the picture – so I showed all of them (even my 4-year-old who was just as caught up in it all), because I wanted them to see that it was just a picture.. ‘yes its a bit scary’ I said ‘but it’s not going to hurt you’. I showed them from a distance.. then I asked them to imagine it with a curly red wig like Ronald McDonald, and a clown face. My husband was working from home and he continued to make jokes about Momo during the day, and at one stage pretended to be Momo with a silly grin and pretending to scare the children. We all started laughing about it. We told them there is always something kids frighten each other with, a few years ago it was killer clowns and when I was young it was ‘Chuckie’ from the movie child’s play.
- Less screen time: I wondered if this could be a blessing in some ways. The kids don’t want to go onto ‘youtube’ or ‘roblocks’ when they get their tablets, so I told them if they’re that afraid of Momo, just stay off the internet (Every cloud has a silver lining).
- Your Reaction: As with many other things, we are so involved in our kid’s lives we can become part of the problem or part of the solution. Don’t get caught up in the worry, drama and rumours. Stay calm and break it down to your kids what exactly is going on here – its a warning to kids to stay away from this game and a warning to parents to know what your kids are up to online.
- Trust: Kids will always have fears, just try to give them the confidence to cope with their fears. I tell my kids and other children that I coach, that children have to remember to trust their parents/guardians. It’s the parent’s job to look after their kids and keep them safe 100% of the time. So if you are getting spooked at night, remember that your parents keep you safe, it’s not your job to worry. They lock up the house at night and make sure everyone is okay. If they become parents when they’re older, it will become their job to keep their kids safe, but it’s not their job now.