MOMO challenge

I’ll admit it: I can be a “lazy” mom.

I’ll swing through a fast-food restaurant instead of cooking a more nutritious meal at home.

I’ll wave the white flag and let my three-year-old have a cookie for breakfast instead of dealing with a meltdown.

I’ll give them my phone and let them surf YouTube so I can take a shower, eat a meal, use the restroom or not find the answer to the never-ending, nagging question, “why??!?”

When it came to YouTube and YouTube Kids, we have every parental control on there. It’s so guarded even Motley Crue videos from the 80s are deemed inappropriate. Well ok, some are 😉

I will never understood why my children enjoyed watching other children on YouTube, or even sometimes adults, open giant eggs that contained toys…but hey, if it gave me a few minutes of some peace and quiet…watch away.

But recently, the phones and devices in our home got a complete overhaul: YouTube – DELETED. YouTube KIDS – DELETED. Roblox – DELETED. Fortnite – DELETED. Even our beloved Peppa Pig game – DELETED.

It’s called the MOMO challenge (or Suicide Game) and it’s hacking popular children’s websites and games as a sneaky way to get to our children. This face, that would give me a nightmare, will often appear…

momo

After this image appears, it reportedly threatens the player if they refuse to follow orders. There are claims that some of the threats include children being killed in their sleep and users are told to harm themselves and even kill themselves.

This scary image and the threats pop-up in the middle of harmless, children-oriented YouTube programs.

The sad thing is this: deleting all of those apps does not solve a thing. Because tomorrow, there will be a new kid-friendly app my kiddos want me to download. My husband and I will research the heck out of it…read the reviews…investigate the risks. He and I will then have another conversation at our kitchen table about whether to allow them to have the app. We will download that app only to later delete it because of something like the MOMO challenge pops up again.

Because the bottom-line is this: there will always be evil lurking. There will always be someone out there who wants to hurt our children. We can “think” we always know what our kids are watching or playing but the truth is, we will never be able to be in front of everything. I could click my heels and wish it was 1988 again. I could never allow my children to use one of the devices in the house. But let me brutally honest and admit this: I’ll hand my child a phone during the next meltdown at a restaurant; I’ll hand my child the phone when I need to use the restroom in peace; I’ll hand my child the phone when I am by myself and I need to get dinner made; I’ll hand my child the phone when they are “so bored” at their older sibling’s game. I’ll own up to my days of “lazy parenting.”

It’s another conversation we have to have with our children. We talk about strangers…we talk about good touch/bad touch…we talk about drugs…we talk about bullying. We MUST talk about it all and we can’t be afraid.

I showed my older two the picture of the scary bug-eyed woman and talked to them in the most simple way: “Look at her, have you seen this face before? Look – this image could pop up – or it could be another picture or a drawing. After they try to get your attention, they’re going to say really awful things. They want you to do awful things. If you ever see anything like this, you let me or Dad know right away, ok? And you know you never listen to anyone who is telling you to do awful or hateful things, right?”

We sat at our kitchen table, our usual meeting spot, and my son sighed and said: “The devil is always trying to ruin things.”

No truer statement.

As I heard one expert put it: “pull the band-aid off and have the tough conversations with your children.”

Those conversations with mom and dad will turn into the voice of reason in their head.