The Momo Challenge is a Hoax, and It’s Not the First of Its Kind

Kim Kardashian propelled the Momo challenge hysteria when she took to social media to warn parents about the alleged threat. The challenge, which news reporters claim instigates children into completing a series of tasks that end in suicide, is a hoax.

YouTube has announced that they have found that none of the videos available on their platform have the reported challenge embedded in them, and while parents have come out of the woodwork to allege the Momo challenge led to potentially dangerous actions by their children, none of the allegations can be confirmed. While the Momo challenge is the most recent alleged challenge to cause mass hysteria, it isn’t the first of its kind, alleges Vox.  

Is the Momo challenge real?

Mass hysteria broke out when several news outlets started to warn parents about a viral video challenge that is compelling young children to commit suicide. While the premise is terrifying, there is no validity to the claims, according to NPR.

A report by the public radio purveyor goes on to explain that YouTube has no data about the viral videos, nor have they been able to hunt them down. There are no screenshots of the challenge. There is just no evidence that the actual problem exists. The character, Momo, however, does exist. The creepy cartoon character has made appearances in several online videos. YouTube has taken steps to demonetize any video that features the creepy caricature.

The blue whale challenge had origins in Russia

The blue whale challenge, which gripped much of the world in 2017, was said to be similar to the Momo challenge. In the challenge teens who joined an online chat group were instructed to complete a series of task over the course of 50 days. The final task, allegedly, incited the teens to commit suicide.

While several reports out of Russia alleged that the challenge had led directly to the deaths of several teens, internet experts suggest the media reports sensationalized the events and how widespread the issue was, according to BBC. While there are reports of several suicides connected to online chat groups, the link between a series of challenges and the deaths could not be found.

Tide Pod challenge grips the nation

In 2018, media reports alerted parents to the potential danger of Tide laundry detergent pods. According to reports, teenagers were purposely ingesting the laundry detergent pods for social media infamy. Media reports made it sound like there were thousands of kids around the country dining on Tide, but the entire concept of a challenge was a hoax.

tide pods
package of Tide Pods (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

According to Time, in the first few weeks of 2018, there were 39 reports of intentional misuse of laundry detergent pods. In 2016 there were 39 cases in the entire year. While intentional ingestion of laundry pods seemed to be on the rise, it wasn’t the large-scale problem that media reports made it out to be. In fact, there were far more accidental exposures than intentional ones.

How do these hoaxes get started?

The Momo challenge, the Tide pod challenge, and the blue whale challenge are three examples of digital urban legends. While these tales are now shared using a keyboard, they are utilizing the same vehicle as the urban legends of yore. While the urban legends of the past took longer to spread and got more grandiose with time, today’s digital urban legends start exaggerated and spread like wildfire through the help of social media.

That isn’t to say parents and teens shouldn’t be on the lookout for potentially dangerous content online. There is plenty of that, but the Momo challenge doesn’t pose the risk that many media reports suggested. All is well on YouTube, but parents should continue to monitor what their children are watching.