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Embracing fear. The Momo Phenomenon

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Evenings by the fire in a children’s summer camp – the best time to whisper about one’s fears. Many of which were born online. Talks about Momo are not favored here, while traditional scary stories – which we all remember since childhood – are replaced by crafty tales. There was a case when an entire class had a hysteria because of a tale about a ghost guide. Imagine what a virtual demon, armed with modern technologies, can do.

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  • Have you heard about Momo?

Alexandra Pogozhina: “I heard it’s something like the Blue Whale. Only in Blue Whale you are doing certain tasks, while Momo comes to you and dismembers you instantly”.

Momo is a genuinely horrifying character with a sinister backstory. Its creators – Japanese animators – said it was a ghost of a woman who died during pregnancy. That’s why Momo is pathologically interested in children. The figurine instantaneously became an internet meme. It starts texting with adolescents, horrifying them with knowledge about their lives. And knows literally everything – name, address – as well as threatening their families.

The hen-woman has consumed teenage internet. Top TV stations talk about it all the time. Because it sharply resembles the Blue Whale online community, which took several teenagers to suicide. The group’s moderator – Filip Lis – was arrested 2 years ago. While its unclear who’s behind Momo, which some attribute the death of an Argentinian 12-year-old girl to.

In the footsteps of foreign children, Russian adolescent bloggers have been posting thousands of videos in which they have been trying to get in touch with Momo – through one of the numbers registered in Japan or Spain.

Maxim Miroshnicheko – who trains children in blogging – explains the popularity of the Japanese character among teenagers.

  • Federal TV stations show news about pension reform, while bloggers talk about Momo. To children watching bloggers trying to call Momo – its like horror movies to us, adults, when we place ourselves in the shoes of a character and feel frightened. But it doesn’t mean that a child would install whatsapp and attempt to reach out to it. Watching the clip online would be enough

But it all depends on the age and mental state. 8-year-old Eva hasn’t heard about Momo yet, but has been having sleep problems after the notoriously-known “Granny” game.

  • This Granny kills. If she sees you, she comes to you and hits you with a bat.

And here’s another character – a teddy bear is looking for a child in an abandoned pizza restaurant. Creators of such games – which are downloaded by millions of children worldwide – are skilled psychologists. They can generate fear on the contrast with the reality – like a horrifying teddy bear. Children with phobias and neurotic disorders often come to visit psychologist Tatyana Gileva. Virtual, high-detailed characters – which almost look live – affect the consciousness much stronger than book characters.

  • The most significant difference is a child is one-on-one with a terrifying character when online, but when a mother is reading a book, the child feels protected and can tell her to stop. The virtual world affects the consciousness more, while criticality decreases. So everything happening online is received much more seriously.

“And the grandpa was bitten in the heart by the mermaid” – a line from mermaid tales by Alexei Tolstoy. Creators of the “Chitaem Detyam” project in St. Petersburg include slightly scarier stories into their reading list – to prepare children for the adult world, which has characters even scarier than a bloodthirsty mermaid.

  • Such tales are read starting at the age of 4. A child has to understand what absolute good and absolute evil are. There are no half-heroes yet.

Each type of stories must be read at an appropriate age, so no harm is done. But children who are safeguarded from evil in literature and art too much might be more afraid of mystical things when they grow up.

Evgeniya Altfeld, reporter: In this summer camp, supervisors take mobile phones from children and only give them back in the evening – and only to make a call to their parents. Cell reception is poor out in the woods, there’s no internet. That’s why only few know about Momo. This is the best way to protect your child from the online demon”.

But soon these children will return home, to everyday life with gadgets and unlimited internet access. The information age has generated an entire industry which profits off children’s fears. Whether that’s computer game sales or hyped up clips aimed at expanding the following. And no filters would be able to protect the children from the horrors of the 21st century – except their parents, their love and attention.

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