When it comes to children on the internet, parents have a right to be a little bit cautious. But that caution went into overdrive last week, as the whole world seemingly went mad over a creepy doll and an online "game."
Worried parents shared stories of the Japanese Momo doll being used as a part of internet challenge, encouraging young, impressionable kids to harm themselves or others. Many sources claimed the doll was appearing in online content intended for children, such as Peppa Pig videos on YouTube.
The internet is a pretty amazing place, but can also be terrifying as Momo has proved.
But with so much ease of access comes some issues.Because kids can find anything online, they can run the risk of stumbling across things that they'd be far better not seeing. It's only natural that parents can want to be protective over their children.
But sometimes, this can tip over into overprotective territory, coining the term "helicopter parents"This term refers to mums and dads who can't leave their kids alone, and end up hovering over them and monitoring all they do. While it can feel like the only way to keep a kid safe, it can also cause them huge problems.
For protective parents, the internet represents many unknown dangers.The amount of content which can be discovered online, alongside the assumption that most people in the world don't have a child's best interests at heart, can be a constant source of anxiety for parents.
Parents can want to just prevent their children finding anything they shouldn't.But this type of censorship can feel more and more impossible, as kids become more tech-savvy and parents experience a loss of control.
One perfect example of this is the recent Momo story.The way this issue quickly went viral online shows how out of control parents are feeling when it comes to the content their children are absorbing.
Stories of what was actually happening varied.But they all centered around this (undeniably creepy-looking) doll. The bug-eyes female face was said to be a part of an online "game" or "challenge" designed to make kids hurt themselves and others.
In spite of the vague nature of the story, it quickly gained traction.Parents were terrified of the unknown evil that may be effecting their precious children. The story went viral, with tons of parents sharing warning about the dangers of Momo.
Even celebs got in on the action.Singer Kehlani urged parents to be cognisant of the dangers of this internet trend, linking to a now-deleted thread about the Momo challenge.
But the Momo hysteria was revealed to be totally unfounded.
Like eating Tide pods and snorting condoms, the Momo challenge is a viral hoax. Spreading these stories distracts f… https://t.co/tFCCnzHI4e— The Atlantic (@The Atlantic)1551407744.0
Eventually, even YouTube spoke out on the story.
We want to clear something up regarding the Momo Challenge: We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the M… https://t.co/PL4gT4HC46— YouTube (@YouTube)1551291151.0
The story quickly became a source of laughs.The way a story spun out of what seems to be no real evidence managed to whip the entire world up into a frenzy is pretty funny.
Some thought we were judging the doll based on appearances.
Maybe #momo is just misunderstood. https://t.co/YBTN2YG1BP— Dr. Alec Couros (@Dr. Alec Couros)1551690724.0
Others pointed out the inherent humor of the name."Momo" is better known for referring to a type of Japanese dumpling. Now that's a viral challenge we could get on board with!
There is a more problematic side to the Momo story, though.
Parents scared of Momo ignoring kids scared of climate change https://t.co/0l01dgvAK4 https://t.co/MZzSwlZpSf— The Daily Mash (@The Daily Mash)1551697605.0
In spite of the lack of real danger, many wanted to take a stand against Momo.
WATCH: Police, students burn an effigy of 'Momo' from the controversial online challenge during their flag-raising… https://t.co/0JrUNlomhP— CNN Philippines (@CNN Philippines)1551672925.0
And it seems the original artist was inspired.
'Momo is dead,' says artist who created creepy big-eyed sculpture https://t.co/8nnBRSFAET https://t.co/xFSrfOBter— CNET (@CNET)1551677447.0
The doll was originally created as part of an exhibition.
The artist's association with the online hysteria happened quite by accident.It was a set of online trolls who originally discovered the scary sculpture and created the online urban legend which became so famous.
The sculptor's name is Keisuke Aiso.
The artist Sculptor Keisuke Aiso who created the chilling "Momo" feels “responsible” for terrifying children after… https://t.co/JxQ01W8cVv— IPE World (@IPE World)1551658759.0
Aiso claims the sculpture is no more.Speaking to The Sun, he says, "It doesn’t exist anymore, it was never meant to last. It was rotten and I threw it away."
The artist hopes the destruction will alleviate any lingering fears."The children can be reassured Momo is dead - she doesn’t exist and the curse is gone." he has promised.
He's saddened by what his creation has been turned into."It was never meant to be used to make children harm themselves or cause any physical harm." he has said. "I have no regrets that it is gone."
The Momo challenge has garnered Aiso unexpected attention.He has mixed feelings about his newfound fame. "I guess I have to be grateful in that sense. I created this artwork three years ago and at the time when it was exhibited at the gallery it did not receive much attention, so at the time I was very disappointed. So when Momo first appeared, it was good in a way that it had received some attention. I was pleased. But the way that it has been used now is very unfortunate."
He says the model is intended to frighten - though not in the way it is now known for.He goes on to say, “When I created the piece - I will be honest - I had every intention to scare people. It is a monster, that’s what I do I make scary things, either using make-up or models. It is a ghoul, about the death of a woman in childbirth, in a way its reason for being is to scare children but it wasn’t supposed to be used in the way it has."
Momo is really just a symptom of a far bigger internet problem.If it hadn't been this scary doll, parents would have been equally hysterical over something else. The real fear, though, is losing control of our kids.
There's no denying that at first glance, the Momo doll is frightening.The large bulging eyes, stringy hair, haunting expression and bird-like claws make it perfect fodder for nightmares. But what's far scarier is the unknown that the internet represents.
As technology advances, kids have unprecedented access to the world.And this includes all the creepiness, weirdness, explicitness and cruelty that the internet represents. We're in uncharted territory, and it can feel totally impossible to offer protections to children.
Underneath the Momo hoax lies a bigger issue.
And @PressSec would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling kids... #MomoMadeMe #Momo… https://t.co/gjdgcpeFej— Erica French Csapo (@Erica French Csapo)1551703633.0