A voice of reason on “Momo”…

By | March 4, 2019

Two things I want to write about today.  One is a quick simple thing I discovered last night while video calling my Mum and Dad.

The other’s not the cheeriest subject, I’m afraid… but I still feel I need to write about it.

You might have heard various bits of kerfuffle about “Momo” – and depending on what version you’ve heard you might be really worried about how it’ll affect kids using the internet.

I know most readers of this newsletter don’t have young children – but some do, and you might have grandchildren, nieces and nephews or so on.

The usual version of the story that the media (and social media) were ranting about a few days ago went like this:

There was this scary cartoon character called Momo and children would be pressured online into adding them as a contact on WhatsApp, so they could contact them.

Then the character would sent them various “challenges” to do – which got increasingly dangerous.  Some versions said the last challenge was to kill themselves.

As you can imagine, there was a lot of panic and various bits of advice to parents to make sure their children knew all about it so they knew to ignore it.

The thing is, the whole thing turned out to be a hoax. There’s no known case of it actually happening – it just seems to have been made up, then lots of people have shared (and no doubt embellished) the story without knowing whether it was true.

The only thing that seems to have actually happened is that some people have put pictures of this Momo character (it’s actually based on a Japanese sculpture) into illegal copies of Peppa Pig episodes and put them on YouTube, so if you’re happily watching Peppa Pig, you might suddenly get a picture of this scary looking character.

Not a nice thing for whoever did it to do, but not in the same league as the original stories.

So, first of all, if you’ve been worried about children you know because of these stories, you can relax a bit – they’re not true.

But secondly, I worry that the story will give someone the idea of actually going ahead and doing it… at least if they do, people will be prepared.

It’s not the first time stories like this have become accepted without anyone checking whether they’re true.  A few years ago there was the “blue whale” challenge which was supposed to be similar… but when someone properly investigated it after the dust had cleared it turned out to be nothing like the original stories, either.

Further back, I remember a story doing the rounds on email that there was a new virus and if you went into your computer and found a certain file had a teddy bear as its icon, then you had the virus and you needed to delete that file.  The thing is, it wasn’t a virus, it was just a file that Windows needed that had a teddy bear as its icon because the programmer thought it was cute… and if you deleted it, your PC stopped working properly.

So I suppose my third point is if you hear extreme stories like this, take them with a pinch of salt… and if you’re not sure, check with a properly reliable source (and where can you find one of them, these days?  Well, there’s this newsletter from us at The Helpful Book Company!)

Anyway, onto something more cheerful.

A quick tip if you use a phone for video calls

Last night I was talking to Mum and Dad – I was using my phone for a video call.

(So it’s more cheerful for me, anyway… and hopefully for Mum and Dad.)

Normally I sit holding my phone in my hand… and by the end of a longish chat I sometimes find I have a stiff hand, if I haven’t moved it around at all.

Now, since the last few years I’ve found I need reading glasses for things like this… and last night I discovered that a glasses case (the hard type you open by flipping the top open rather than the soft type) makes a perfect stand for a mobile phone.  You can prop the phone up in it, put it on a table in front of you and it holds it at a nice angle for you to see the screen and for the camera to point at you.

A low tech tip, I know, but if you use a phone for video calls, it could be handy!  It will be to me, anyway.

Right, that’s all for this week.  I’ll try to find something more cheerful for next time.

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