AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District Police sent out a tweet Thursday afternoon advising parents about the “Momo Challenge,” an Internet hoax that has circulated at different times over several years and is currently making its way across social media.
While we believe there’s no solid evidence that MOMO videos exist, stay informed. Others may perpetuate this fear through social media, bullying, etc. Monitor your child’s online activity, but #dontletfearwin. @AustinISD @aisdparents @natonlinesafety pic.twitter.com/acMJYl0M1Q— Austin ISD Police (@AISDPolice) February 28, 2019
In an accompanying newsletter, AISD police explain what has been called a “suicide challenge,” ways that the challenge has allegedly been circulating and tips to help parents talk to their children about internet hoaxes and challenges overall.
According to AISD’s newsletter, “[Momo] is a scary doll-like figure that reportedly sends graphic, violent images and asks users to partake in dangerous challenges like waking up at random hours and has even been associated with self-harm.”
AISD explains that according to social media posts, the challenge has allegedly been accessed via YouTube — and even YouTube Kids — and is said to have contributed to children finding the challenge and the grim image of the Momo character. The website’s algorithm for video recommendations, response time to inappropriate videos and autoplay features are alleged to be exposing chidren to the videos.
In an article for The Atlantic, Taylor Lorenz explains, in regard to the hoax’s recurrence every couple of years:
“The Momo challenge wasn’t real then, and it isn’t real now. YouTube confirmed that, contrary to press reports, it hasn’t seen any evidence of videos showing or promoting the “Momo challenge” on its platform. If the videos did exist, a spokesperson for YouTube said, they would be removed instantly for violating the platform’s policies. Additionally, there have been zero corroborated reports of any child ever taking his or her own life after participating in this phony challenge.”
While there is no evidence the videos even exist, AISD still urges parents to speak to their children about such viral “challenges”: Tips include:
- Explaining to children that such characters are not real and cannot harm them.
- Dissuading children from purposely seeking out the content
- Being alert and present with your child and what they are accessing, including utilizing parental controls
- Discussing peer pressure with kids. Including explaining to children that they shouldn’t give in to pressure from friends to do things they aren’t comfortable with.
- Reporting disturbing or harmful content
Additionally, parents are advised not to believe everything they read online.
“As a parent, it is natural to feel worried about certain things you see online that may be harmful to your child. However, not everything you see online is true. Check the validity of the source and be mindful of what you share as it may cause more worry.”