News of a fresh threat to children exploded on social media last week. Local TV stations, police departments and school officials began warning parents about Momo, a grinning, bug-eyed monster said to appear unexpectedly in children’s YouTube videos and instruct young viewers to engage in increasingly dangerous behavior — including self-harm and suicide.

There’s no proof that Momo-spliced videos for children exist, or that the figure is linked to any real cases of self-harm or suicide. The photograph that warnings label as Momo actually depicts a spooky sculpture created by a Japanese artist and exhibited in a 2016 art show. (As if to sew things up even more definitively, the artist who made Momo has confirmed that the sculpture was destroyed some time ago after its rubber components began to degrade.)

But despite all signs of the phenomenon being a hoax, fear of Momo persists. In the New York Times, John Herrman observed that “screens and screen time are a source of endless guilt and frustration among parents today, and it makes sense to need to displace these feelings on a face, a character, and something, or someone, with fantastically evil motives.”

That Momo is a convenient repository for the terror of contemporary parenting is almost certainly true — but I suspect there’s something more timeless there, too.

Consider the context in which Momo has risen to prominence. At the moment, you can peruse a trifecta of new documentaries examining horrors committed against children: “Leaving Neverland,” which explores the pedophilia allegations leveled against Michael Jackson; “Surviving R. Kelly,” a deep dive into the rap star’s alleged sexual abuse of young black girls; and “Abducted in Plain Sight,” about an ordinary family’s slow recognition of the years-long molestation of their daughter.

One of the great anxieties of parenting — which no level of vigilance can fully allay — is that you will do everything you can to keep your child out of harm’s way but ultimately fail to recognize a threat for what it is, or — worse — even invite it in. Harmful things can come in harmless guises, after all: beloved pop stars, trusted family friends, unassuming priests and perhaps cheerful YouTube videos marked for kids.

You can drive yourself crazy worrying about these hidden risks. But ultimately all you can do is what you’re most likely already doing: Look closely, consider carefully, talk to your kids and be cautiously optimistic. There is, finally, quite a bit of good in the world — even in strangers, even on YouTube — and not as much bad as it often seems.

— The Washington Post

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.