If you’ve spent more than a nanosecond on social media this week, you’ve probably seen the haunting image associated with the Momo Challenge. What is this triggering picture, and what’s actually happening?

Recent claims say the Momo Challenge sends a text or WhatsApp message to kids. These include ghastly photos and peculiar dares popping up in the middle of children’s screen time. The dares range from bizarre, like “wake up at 3 a.m.” to horrifying – commit suicide, with a detailed step by step. The challenger warns the child that if he or she tells her parents about the message or the dare, certain danger will follow.

Infiltrating YouTube?

Others report that Momo images and hidden messages have infiltrated popular YouTube channels, interrupting popular cartoons. YouTube, however, released an official statement Wednesday. “Contrary to press reports, we’ve not received any recent evidence of videos showing or promoting the ‘Momo Challenge.’ Content of this kind would be in violation of our policies and removed immediately.”

Then why the media craze? On Tuesday, Twitter user Wanda Maximoff  tweeted: “Warning! Please read, this is real. There is a thing called ‘Momo’ that’s instructing kids to kill themselves.” Wanda attached the now infamous Momo screenshot to her tweet with the words: “Tell everyone you can.” More than 22,000 users have now retweeted her original tweet.

Believe it or not, Momo isn’t new. News reports associated the 2018 suicides of two boys in India with the Momo Challenge, according to fact-checking website Snopes. Parents in the UK also reported that their children threatened to commit violent acts after being exposed to Momo. Beyond these instances, little to no additional evidence exists of actions triggered by the challenge.

Momo is a household name this week, as the horrifying picture circulates ad nauseam. But the challenge is receiving a mixed response. Some parents are horrified and hiding electronics from their kids. Others think it’s fake news or a hoax.

What’s a level-headed but vigilant parent to do?

1. Stop adding fuel to the fire.

Frightened parents are recirculating the image, therefore exposing more people to it. Hysteria generates more hysteria. This also piques curiosity. Stop the cycle.

2. Talk to your kids about internet safety.

You can have a healthy, non-threatening conversation about safe internet practices with your kids without scaring them. Review these internet safety tips and initiate a proactive dialogue.

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3. Inventory your family’s internet access and practices at home.

The Momo Challenge presents a good reminder to consider your family’s current screen usage. Ask yourself if you need to make any adjustments. Where do your kids get online? What kind of parental controls have you installed? How often do you review their browsing history? Are effective parental controls in place on all devices?

4. Give yourself grace. 

Kids of even the most attentive parents will inevitably view something disturbing at some point in their young lives. Remember John 16 tell us that in this world we will have trouble, not “might” or “could.”

If not Momo, something else will eventually frighten or bother your children. Protect them as much as you can. Then accept that you can’t control everything that happens—even when you are around.

Thankfully the second part of the statement in John can give us peace. Jesus has overcome the world. This isn’t our permanent home or the end of our kids’ stories.

5. Pray.

Pray for protection. Ask God for wisdom as you seek to allow your kids to access technology in a safe but reasonable, realistic way. Pray for anyone exposed to the Momo Challenge. Pray that you’ll be able to teach your kids effectively. Then release them to God since your control is limited.

We all hope there will be nomo Momo. But in the meantime, we can protect our homes, pray and trust God with the outcomes.

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