momo challenge

A screenshot of the avatar used to promote the Momo Challenge (screenshot)

Real Or A Hoax, Detroit-Area Schools Warn Parents About Creepy 'Momo Challenge'

Therapist offers advice on how to talk to your kids about it

February 28, 2019 - 2:24 pm

(WWJ) Some Detroit-area schools are sending letters home to parents, warning them about a menacing online threat.

Featuring a distorted and terrifying character, "The Momo Challenge" is said to be popping on YouTube and social media apps, telling young children to do harmful things from turning on the stove to stabbing themselves or others.

Officials with Wayne-Westland Community Schools note it's been reported that Momo can appear even with parental controls in place, during popular kids' videos including Peppa Pig, Hatchimals and Fortnite.

It's worth noting, however, that some say Momo is a hoax. YouTube tweeted Wednesday: "We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube. Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies."

Real or not, the Momo scare presents a teachable moment about the dangers children face online. 

"Please use this as an opportunity to remind your children not to accept any communication or request from an unknown phone number, link or app without talking to you first," the Wayne-Westland letter reads. (View the Wayne-Westland Schools letter)

Judy Malinowski, a therapist with Ascension East Wood Behavioral Health in Detroit, says when talking to your child about Momo it's important to use a matter-of-fact tone, because kids can pick up on fear or anxiety in your voice, and that may frighten them.

"It is really up to the parent to have their finger on the pulse of what their child is seeing, and monitoring how much their child is on the internet," said Malinowski, in an interview with WWJ's Dr. Deanna Lites. 

"This is another indication of how important it is to really understand, A) What's out there,"  Malinowski said. "They need to be informed because our children are getting bombarded with information at light speed. And it is really up to the parent to have their finger on the pulse of what their child is seeing, what their child is being exposed to, and monitoring how much their child is on the internet."

Officials with Livonia Public Schools offer the following tips to parents:

• Spend time talking with your child about safe and appropriate online behavior
• Bookmark favorite sites for kids, so they are easily accessible without having to do online searches
• Pay close attention to your child’s online activity and become involved in what they are doing online
• Watch for unknown charges on credit card accounts that may be linked to websites
• Limit screen time to an open, common area in the household
• Do not allow cell phones and other electronic devices to be taken to bedrooms overnight – consider keeping them in another area of house during overnight hours
(View the Livionia Schools letter)