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Is the 'Momo Challenge' Real? Experts Say Phenomenon Likely a 'Hoax,' Urge Parents' Vigilance

Stephen Sinclair is a Canadian freelance writer who has been publishing professionally for several years.

Is Momo Real News?

A 'perfect storm' has caused Google searches like "What is Momo?" and "Where does Momo live?" to spike.

A 'perfect storm' has caused Google searches like "What is Momo?" and "Where does Momo live?" to spike.

What You Need To Know About The 'Momo Challenge'

"Momo" is a "innocuous sculpture" designed by Japanese special-effects artist Keisuke Aisawa that first appeared in Instagram photos in 2016. The Atlantic reports that the sculpture's actual title is Mother Bird. The Link Factory artist's work was displayed at a "horror-art" gallery in Tokyo where it was photographed.

Before reaching the United States in 2018, as reported by the BBC, the "Momo challenge" first appeared in Europe and then Argentina, where it has been connected to a child's death. Police are said to be "skeptical" about Momo's association with the case. Other reports of children acting out in reaction to Momo have been reported in California and the United Kingdom, as featured with CNN.

"In its purest form," Guardian Media Editor Jim Waterson told the BBC, "it's a warning that's circulating, mainly among adults, that children, when they see an image on WhatsApp, are going to be encouraged to do violent acts, perhaps even suicide, by this character represented by a bizarre image of a Japanese puppet."

Despite the smattering of reports of harm to children, David Mikkelson, the founder of Snopes, says that data to support "a prevalent, global phenomenon of Momo popping up in kids' WhatsApp accounts and YouTube videos and urging them to harm themselves" does not exist and that the "claim appears to be fear-driven exaggeration lacking in supportive evidence."

The Momo challenge has been compared to previous viral challenges, such as the "blue whale challenge" and the "Tide Pod challenge," which has been called "lighthearted." Instructions given by another internet phenomenon, Slenderman, was the reason provided by two Wisconsin teens for their 2014 stabbing of a friend. The teens now face 25- and 40-year stays in mental health facilities.

What Is The Momo Challenge?

'Know What Your Kids Are Watching'

Given this information, Common Sense Media's Jill Murray says that the fears of parents with regard to viral internet sensations are "often justified," even though, in the case of Momo, there probably isn't much to worry about.

"Know what your kids are watching, and how they're watching it," both Murray and Mikkelson underlined to CNN.

A small number of trolls and others with bad intentions have "possibly" inserted the haunting image of Momo in children's videos and harassed children on messaging apps. "Anyone can post pretty much anything to YouTube at any time."

Though schools, law enforcement agencies, and media outlets have jumped on what is said to be information gleaned from just one original post to a small Facebook group, the sensation has ballooned into an international phenomenon.

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Jim Waterson described the attention directed at the images of the sculpture as a "perfect storm" driven by click-hungry media and the "legitimate concerns" of parents. He observed that teenagers are often better at sorting real news from fake than their parents, many of whom also have younger children to consider.

While it is natural for police, schools, and parents to be concerned about such stories, journalist Amelia Tait told the BBC that the disproportionate amount of attention Momo has received is the fault of the media.

"It starts ... in one Facebook group and tabloids decided to report that as fact," Tait described. "That lends legitimacy to that one comment and causes more comments."

Little Evidence That 'Momo Challenge' Presents Actual Danger

Parents are encouraged to be aware of their children's online activities.

Parents are encouraged to be aware of their children's online activities.

© 2019 Stephen Sinclair


Stephen Sinclair (author) from Canada on April 16, 2019:

Thank you, Tim!

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on April 16, 2019:

Interesting. I've never heard of this until today. Thanks, Stephen. The best advice is to know what your kids are doing on the internet like you said in your article.


Respect and admiration,


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