You couldn’t go online or turn on the television Wednesday without hearing of the “Momo Challenge”. Warnings went out from schools and law enforcement agencies that children were seeing scary images while watching children’s videos on YouTube. The video inserts told the viewer to do what it says, then reportedly told children to either harm themselves or others.
It began spreading on Facebook by terrified parents. Family counselor Jason Gibson has been fielding phone calls from concerned parents ever since.
“Because they’ve seen a pattern of behaviors that their kids, the things they’re doing just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “It’s become such a big deal in the last week that parents are talking about it with other parents and it’s so easy to forget that your kid is just 10 feet away,” Gibson said.
But Momo was a hoax. If you can find it on YouTube where it pops up mid-video, it was likely uploaded after the story went viral. YouTube is deleting those videos quickly. There are phone numbers posted in message boards and elsewhere on the internet. Numbers to call if you want to connect with “Momo” I found several and called three. All of them went to different call centers and the operator had no idea what I was talking about.
The Momo challenge is a viral ghost story so terrifying, it’s come to life because people are sharing it over and over again on social media, and news outlets around the country picked up on it. Panic grew, not because kids were committing suicide or hurting other people, but because each story was scarier than the previous one.
“Maybe they really saw the video, maybe the didn’t. Maybe they only saw a picture, but you’ve talked about everything that happens so they feel the same effects as if they actually watched it,” Gibson told me.
“For us, we’re not getting into the weeds: was there a video, was there not a video? What we know is that people are struggling and we want to meet them and help them right where they are. How can we help their child come to understand what has been overheard or seen so they know where to go next.”
While the Momo Challenge started out as a hoax, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s still a hoax. Creeps are adding Momo to children’s videos now and uploading them to YouTube. Gibson told me now’s the time to talk to your kids, don’t scare them, but ask them to let you know if they see a Momo video. And, don’t be too quick to share or re-post something like this, before checking it out yourself.