Some Long Island school districts have picked up on the recent frenzy around the purported “Momo Challenge” and are sending information to parents about the issue.
“While there are … reports that the threat of the Momo Challenge may be overstated, we felt it important to make you aware of it,” reads an email sent yesterday to parents and staff in the Half Hollow Hills School District. “Additionally, given the growing national media coverage of the Momo Challenge, experts on mental health caution that such hysterical news coverage could potentially prove harmful, possibly even inspiring imitators. It can also cause some students to be fearful or anxious.”
The purported Momo Challenge features a creepy woman with stringy hair and bulging eyes who allegedly pops up during children’s programming on YouTube and encourages them to contact her on WhatsApp. Then she urges them to complete increasingly harmful challenges that may end with committing suicide. Alarmed parents have been spreading the word on Long Island Facebook parenting pages.
However, YouTube has released a statement saying that it has seen “no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube.” And social media safety experts such as Josh Ochs, who runs the Los Angeles-based website Smartsocial.com, have posted information, including Ochs' video “Is the Momo Challenge a Hoax on Social Media?”
“Hoax or not, the truth is we need to have a healthy dialogue with our kids,” Ochs says. “Whether there’s data or not to support it, this is a chance for a dialogue.”
That dialogue should include reminding kids about being careful regarding whom they talk to online, Ochs says.
Parents should also ask what apps their kids are using and be familiar with them and their content. "Your kids need to know Mom and Dad are somewhat savvy online," he says. Kids need to be confident their parents will be as wise regarding issues in the online world as they are on issues in the real world, Ochs says.
"It's not a one-and-done thing," Ochs says. "It's a recurring monthly discussion about safety and instilling wisdom in your kids."