Is The “Momo Challenge” the “Bloody Mary Challenge” of their parents generation? It was.

At around noon Wednesday I saw the first one: a Facebook post from a panicked parent about a scary message inserted into a Peppa Pig video they’d found on YouTube.

By 1 o’clock there were dozens of similar messages. The network newscasts were next. Schools and law enforcement sent home warnings and posted them on school Facebook pages. In a matter of a few hours parents around the country were terrified of the “Momo Challenge”.

The challenge, I’m sure you’ve heard by now, was part of a video of a big-eyed face with bird legs (which we’ve learned was part of a statue). The image, “Momo” then screams that you must do certain things for him to go away. Eventually, at least how it’s reported, Momo tells children to either harm themselves or someone else.

Parents were afraid their child could be next. And in just about every mention of “Momo” on social media, it was a parent sharing what had already been shared dozens of times with the question: “have you seen this?”

So the videos exist? Yes, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

“Momo” first appeared in September of 2018. It caused just a little disturbance, but nothing like this year.

“Momo” benefited from millions of parents who shared the warning they saw on social media. Panic grew and more parents shared the multiple warnings they saw, which of course created more shares. Soon everyone had seen it on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram.

I can’t dispute that Momo existed prior to this recent panic, but I also can’t find verified stories of children harming themselves. I cannot find Momo videos prior to this week. YouTube has been taking them down, so there were likely videos uploaded before, just no one can find them now.

Make no mistake, panic and social media made Momo what it is now.

Jason Gibson is a family counselor and he was happy we’re doing this story today. He’s had parents call who’ve seen the stories on Facebook and in the news. They’re frightened. And their fear is rubbing off on their children.

“It’s become such a big deal in the last week, that parents are talking about it with other parents, and it’s so easy to forget that your kid is just 10 feet away,” Gibson told me. Maybe they really saw the video, maybe they didn’t, maybe they only saw a picture but you’ve talked about everything that happens so they feel the same effects as if they actually watched it. ”

Essentially Gibson is saying, parents may have put the idea in their heads.

I’ve seen and read interviews from parents who, after hearing the story, say they showed their young child a picture of Momo and asked if they’d ever seen it before. The parent says their child starts crying and is afraid. I know some adults who’d cry at the sight of Momo.  It’s a frightening character. In fact, we decided not to show its face on TV in this story.

Gibson said “For us, we’re not getting into the weeds: was there a video, was there not a video, what we know is that people are struggling, and we want to meet them and help them right where they are.”

There are videos now. Creeps who want to hit massive views on their YouTube account are inserting Momo into random kid videos and uploading them. Now, after the ghost story went viral. So did we all have a hand in giving Momo a bigger impact on children? It’s something to think about.

As for what parents should say to their kids now that they really might run across a Momo video, Gibson said talk to your child but don’t scare them. “Don’t go all the way over here where we magnifying this, and make this video the most important thing. Because you’re child is the most important thing, not the video,” he said. “Don’t go way over here and hyper-focus on what’s being reported about Momo, but on the other hand, don’t completely pretend like there’s no way in the world your kid hasn’t seen this or been aware of this.”

Opportunistic creeps are inserting “Momo” into videos and uploading them to get views.

YouTube is busy taking down new videos of Momo that have been posted and reported. It asks anyone who sees a Momo video to report it immediately through the platform. There is a ‘report this video’ option on every video.