Confronting the Momo Problem

Confronting the Momo Problem

The “Momo Challenge”.

Did you hear about it? Did it cause panic among your circles? Did you see emails, Facebook posts, and texts warning you about this terrifying internet presence?

Momo is scary, terrifying, horrible, dark, and twisted. But it is also fake – a hoax. Even though this particular character was fake, it brings up a great question – how do we confront internet and social media issues with our children?

Before I go further, let me give some context for those who haven’t heard of Momo. According to this CNN article, “The [Momo] challenge is the latest viral concern/social media fad/urban legend going around Facebook parenting groups and schools. It’s described as a “suicide game” which combines shock imagery and hidden messaging, and it supposedly encourages kids to attempt dangerous stunts, including suicide.”

According to Facebook posts, the scary, large-eyed doll figure called Momo would pop up in the middle of YouTube videos aimed at children like cartoons and toy reviews. Momo would then ask children to engage in destructive behavior – hurting themselves, loved ones, and even encouraging them to kill themselves. Reportedly, Momo also warned viewers against telling adults about what they were seeing and hearing. It is a horrifying thought that these messages would sneak into videos that parents and adults trusted to be safe for children.

However, while there have been Facebook posts, testimonies and stories, there has been little to no evidence that these Momo Challenge messages exist – no screen shots or recordings. According to experts, Momo is nothing to be worried about and stories of the challenge have been perpetuated by fearful exaggeration.

Now here is the problem with Momo – are children scared of the figure because they saw it in a video? Or are they scared because of the stories and pictures they have seen from parents and peers? Which begs the question – did we make this problem worse by talking about it? And how do we handle things like this in the future?

Here are some things to keep in mind while having internet, social media, or cyber-bullying conversations with you children and teenagers:


Question without telling.

When asking teens about current things that you are seeing in the news or on Facebook, start by asking non-leading questions. Instead of asking about Snapchat, for example, ask what apps they are using on their phones. Ask how they interact with friends via the internet. Ask if they have seen or heard anything scary or inappropriate on the internet or their phone apps.

By all means, please ask your teenagers what they are watching, listening to, interacting on. If you have younger children, have them watch videos with you in the room, check their view history and regulate what they have access to. But try to avoid telling them the shortcomings of social media and the internet if they are using it innocently. Open the door for your kids to talk to you without making them worried or afraid of what you might tell them. 


Talk without projecting fear.

It is understandable if you are worried. But your kids don’t need your worry and fear projected on them. This is especially important when you are talking about cyberbullying and worrisome content.

For example, maybe your teen received a less-than-nice message on social media. While this is not ideal or even acceptable, it also doesn’t mean that they are being bullied. However, if you project that fear onto your child, they will look for bullying in every situation in the future. Let them hold onto their innocence for as long as possible. Use accountability and some boundaries to check on them without placing rules that will raise anxiety or stress.


 Ask without assumption.

Don’t assume that just because an app is popular, your student has it on their phone. Even though Snapchat could be used with some negative intent, it doesn’t mean that your teen is using it for anything besides sending silly pictures to friends.

You should ask. You should question and keep your teenager accountable. But please don’t assume that they are doing something wrong or hiding something from you. When you start a conversation with assumptions, your teen will most likely start their response with defensiveness. Healthy conversations will include questions and an open discussion – they will end with accusations and assumptions. Give your teen the benefit of the doubt and show that you are willing to listen first before reacting!


 Discuss without an agenda.

Sometimes, you need to have discussions with your kids even if you don’t have something specific you need to ask about. When you open the door for discussion at all times, not just when they are in trouble or you are worried, they are more likely to come to you on their own instead of you always having to seek them out.

They may think you are being dorky and they may roll your eyes, but ask, “What is the newest app these days?” Ask the cool ways to connect with friends online. Start a conversation about the newest video game craze. Show that you are interested in them. Teens want you to ask – despite their reactions – they want to be heard and cared about. Be an adult who hears about the scary, dangerous, fun, exciting things first because that is the kind of relationship you have cultivated with teenagers.


As I wrap up, I want to encourage you to be invested in the social media practices of your children. Know what they are watching, downloading, playing and using. Ask other adults, and stay aware of trends and possible dangers.

Hopefully you did hear about the Momo Challenge, but I also hope you will do research and ask around when you hear legends and rumors. While we don’t want to be naïve adults, we also don’t need to believe everything on internet. Above all else, start conversations with your kids and teens. Ask questions, engage them, and also trust them!

You are doing hard work in an constantly changing world!

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Marketing & Development Director

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

5 Ways to Misuse Hashtags

5 Ways to Misuse Hashtags


Hashtags have become a part of everyday life. Literally…




#WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday)

#TBT (Throwback Thursday)

#FlashbackFriday (Why do we need 2 of these, again?)

#Caturday (Apparently this is a thing?)


We use them, love them, and abuse them. But why do we use hastags? What is the point? And most importantly – how can we make abusive hashtagging stop??

Merriam-Webster defines “hashtag” as: a word or phrase preceded by the symbol # that classifies or categorizes the accompanying text (such as a tweet).


IMG_0136 Hashtags are GREAT, especially when you want to find videos from Taylor Swift’s latest concert, or pictures of really cute animals or children, or if you’re looking for funny/inspirational quotes.

     However, we also use hashtags for tons of things that don’t really make sense, like…

to let people know you are naturally good looking #nofilter

to humble-brag #blessed

to let people know you took a photo yourself (like we couldn’t tell) #selfie

to laugh at yourself #lolololol



Before I share the major ways hashtags are abused, please hear me say, if you do any of the following, I am not judging you (I have done most of these myself). And I am not even telling you to stop using hashtags – just please be smart/reasonable/intentional when you use hashtags.


5 Ways to Misuse #Hashtags

5. #PhotoOfTheDay #IAmCool



Let me just say, when you use hashtags to build yourself, your tweet, or your picture up, you make it not cool. Sorry, Mr. Pasta Man, but I do not think that your picture is going to be “Photo of the Day” for anyone besides your mom.

Don’t feel the need to #hashtag how great your material is; instead, let other people tell you how great/pretty/cute you are – it means more coming from them!


4. #This #is #not #a #sentence


Just because you can hashtag something, doesn’t mean that you should. Be intentional about the hashtags you use. If they have a purpose, great! If you use too many hashtags, it’s annoying.

Plus, if you buy into Merriam-Webster’s definition, hashtags are meant to categorize, and who wants to look up pictures of #the? Not me.


3. #TheEventHashtagFail



I love event and wedding hashtags (see my own wedding hashtag above)! I think they are fun and perfect for when you want to look back on an event or see the bride of a wedding you missed. However, bad event hashtags are a pet peeve of mine.

Don’t use forever long hashtags that no one can remember and therefore will not use like, #MrandMrsTieTheKnotandLiveHappilyEverAfter. No one will ever take the time to type that out.

Also, don’t use event hashtags that are unspecific and have been used 1,000,000 times already, it defeats the purpose! #Fundraiser #BeSpecific

Event hashtags are popular and useful, but don’t abuse your hashtag power or feel the need to create a hashtag when it won’t serve a purpose. Once again, be intentional.


2. #MyBabyisCuterThanYours


First of all, this is a real hashtag…that tens of thousands of people have used.

I might step on some toes with this one, but #please be careful when you create hashtags for you children!

Yes, they are cute and yes, creating individual hashtags makes it easier for you to find all of their pictures in one place, but you also just made it easy for me and Creepy-Joe-next-door to find those same pictures…

Post pictures of your kids (or pets) and make us all jealous of their cuteness, but remember that one day, they might have their own social media, and they might not want everyone to be able to access all of their childhood pictures with one click of a cleverly-crafted #hashtag.


1. #LikeMe #FollowMe #Like4Like


This is a HUGE one. Don’t believe me?

As of right now on Instagram, #likeme has been used 7,762,513 times. #follow me has been used 262,561,542 times.

Yep. That is literally millions of posts asking people to like, follow, comment, and approve of their pictures.

In this social media driven culture, your success is sometimes based solely on how many twitter followers, instagram likes and comments you have. However, using these hashtags can be so self-deprecating. Wanting to gain a like or follower at any cost (even if it’s spam) doesn’t make you more popular, it makes you look desperate.

If you want some more insight into this particular subject, check out Sarah Brooks’ post, “Parents: A Word about Instagram”!


Let’s agree to hold our hashtags to higher standards and not fall into the trap culture sets when it tries to trick you into breaking the internet with excessive hashtag use!


Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Lifeline’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
About First Flight, iPhones & Boundaries

About First Flight, iPhones & Boundaries

On December 17th, 1903 the world began to change. This particular day in Kitty Hawk, NC, two brothers made another attempt to get a heavier-than-air vehicle to fly in a controlled fashion. They were successful, depending on how you view success. They flew their “Wright Flier 1” a whopping 120 feet in 12 seconds, at a scorching speed of 6.8 miles per hour. I joke a little about these stats because of course, they represented something much bigger than the meager leap forward it seemed at the time. After this, everything would change. Our world would become smaller and smaller, eventually giving people of any social status the power to travel anywhere in the world they desired.Pasted Graphic 2


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But, it didn’t come quickly. After first flight came a flurry of development, testing, and refinement. With these advances came trial and error, mishaps and failure, and many injuries and deaths. In fact, it was almost 24 years later before a non-stop flight over the Atlantic Ocean occurred when Lindbergh and his “Spirit of St. Louis” made the harrowing 33 hour journey from New York to Paris. Lindbergh reported flying anywhere from 10,000 feet above storm clouds to 10 feet above the crashing waves of the Atlantic. By skill, luck, and the grace of God, he found his way across the pond and into world history.


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And it was another twenty years before the speed of sound was broken by Chuck Yeager in 1947. What we take for granted in fighter jets and other supersonic aircraft only came around almost fifty years after first flight.


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So why am I talking about the history of flight in a blog about teenagers? A significant influence on any modern teenager’s life is the internet, and more specifically social media. These tools and services have infiltrated many, if not all parts of our lives and seems to be here to stay. We find our entertainment, communications, education, and even our social lives within the portals of our laptops, smartphones, and other internet connected devices. When we lose our phones, it is like we lose an appendage. It is now a part of us, completely.

But, the internet and social media haven’t been around very long. The internet as we know it is just a touch over 20 years old, and social media in it’s current form is only a little over ten years old. These technologies are in mere swaddling clothes, though we often see them as grown up and starting their careers.

We forget that the iPhone is only as old as Obama’s first run for the presidency. You read that right. For so many of us who use the iPhone, we don’t realize how young it really is. And Facebook is only a few years older than the iPhone.


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Yet for such young technology, we ask it to do everything for us, and we will often let our students use this technology unfettered. When you look back over the history of flight, you see decades upon decades of development, sacrifice, and change for us to get to the dependable form of transportation flight is today. Yet, you would not have hopped on the “Wright Flier 1” to go anywhere you wanted to go safely.

The technology of the internet and social media is so young and untested. Maybe it would benefit us to take a step back and provide some boundaries and limits for our students as we learn how social media and extended screen time really affect us. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Create some time each day with no phones or computers.
  • Make a “no cell zone” when you go out to eat as a family – phones stay in the car.
  • No phones in the bedroom (that goes for parents as well).
  • Make all students’ social media accessible for parents (i.e. parents know passwords to student’s social media accounts).
  • Find time each day to re-claim face to face conversation.

These are just some ideas, and there are many other ways to create boundaries and space to learn and grow as social media and the internet develops. I’m not saying that we should be scared or fearful of the internet. But I am saying we should be wise about how we integrate it into our lives.

What do you think about this? What other suggestions would you add to this list to create healthy boundaries with social media?


Chris Robey, Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.


I was turned onto a story from Newsweek by Michael Hyatt and his Podcast, What the Internet is doing to our brains [and what we can do about it],  a couple of weeks ago. I was intrigued because this is something that I not only hear about all the time working with teens but my young children are consumed with wanting to play games watch shows and they expect they can do it whenever and wherever they want.

The Newsweek article can be found online under Is the Internet Driving us Mad? and here is a video posted there that sums up some ways to deal with how we use the internet.