Parents Corner: Looking Back At The Frenzy Of The Momo Challenge

Adrienne Gibbs
5 min readAug 28, 2019
Child watching a television. Image provided by Vidmir Raic/Pixabay

My son was watching YouTube Kids when I got the first text message about the “Momo Challenge,” which is apparently the latest rejuvenation of a dirty, digital dare intended to convince children to hurt themselves or commit suicide.

I’d never heard of Momo before, but my kids are young and just now getting into YouTube and other digital offerings. The possibility of Momo appearing inside of an episode of, say — Peppa Pig — was a shock to my six-years-new-to-parenting ears. Most everyone I saw at school pickup, or on Facebook or at Scouts, had a neighbor or best friend who had interacted with the eerie smile and bug eyes of a Japanese sculpture named “Mother Bird” that has somehow become the “face” of this latest digital scare- or ghost story, depending upon whom you want to believe.

In recent days, Momo has made headlines around the world, even prompting some police departments to send alerts. However, through all of this, YouTube tells me it has no evidence of this challenge being spread specifically on YouTube Kids and further, the streaming giant tells me the content has not been found on YouTube kids. In fact, a YouTube spokesperson encouraged me to submit a screenshot, a link or a video of a video where Momo — and not a news story or a warning to stay away from Momo — was found on the kids version of its products so that it could investigate. And, in a statement sent to me, the digital giant says this:

Contrary to press reports, we’ve not received any recent evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on YouTube. Content of this kind would be in violation of our policies and removed immediately.

Digging a little deeper, and watching a few more parent videos on the topic, I found that many of the described instances of kids who encounter this googly-eyed monster are playing Minecraft, or watching videos related to Roblox or are on WhatsApp. Those kids are also older than mine. (My kids are still mostly watching Disney Jr. and Baby First TV.) Meanwhile, CBS News says the challenge stems from WhatsApp — not YouTube.

My six-year-old had not heard the words Momo; I asked him but I did not show him the image as I don’t want him exposed to such art just yet. However, my friends with same-age kids who…

Adrienne Gibbs

Director, Creator Growth @Medium. Award-winning Writer. Editor. Mother. Featured on Beyoncé's year in review film.