Care and Feeding

I Hate Momo!!!!!

How do we convince our child this stupid internet hoax is not real?

A young girl covering her eyes.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by evgenyatamanenko/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 9-year-old daughter heard about the viral video hoax Momo from friends at school and is now scared. She has returned to wanting her lights on all night and has trouble falling asleep. For background information, she has always been a child that is scared of seemingly harmless things (including Disney movies), and as parents, we have blocked content on her iPad so that she only has access to Netflix (with the kids settings on), PBS Kids, and apps to help her practice her math facts.

After she told us about her fears, we talked with her about real versus fake videos (and how videos are made, including showing her how green screens work) and about other characters she knows to be fake, such as mascots from professional sports teams. (She knows there is a person inside the costume.)

How else do we try to talk to her to calm her fear? We struggle with the understanding that it is something she is genuinely scared of and trying to be sensitive to that fear.

—I Hate Momo

Dear I Hate Momo,

Momo is the worst. You are doing a tremendously good job! I’m particularly impressed with the green screen idea, which is a piece of advice that a lot of parents can use to pull back the curtain on scary images.

For now, I would let her keep the lights on until she is ready to go back to her normal routine. I think she probably feels a little sheepish and knows on some level that other kids are a bit more resilient around this stuff than she is, so it would be great for you and your partner to talk about what images or movies scared you as a child, and how you eventually worked through it. Letting her regress for a short time is no big deal (lights on, you staying with her for a night or two until she falls asleep, reading her stories that are a little “babyish” for her age but you know she loves, etc.).

I would privately dig around on the internet for some of the joke Momo images meant to redirect kids from these fears. Being able to laugh at Momo is the first step! I remember being terrified by the Red Bull in The Last Unicorn and my parents having zero idea how to get me over it. Time, of course, is what got me over it, but if there had been funny memes mocking the Red Bull, I bet I would have bounced back more quickly.

This will pass, and I wish a pox on the news reports that get parents all het up about fake dangers to their kids, thus fanning what should be completely ephemeral and transient stories into front-page news.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I have 9-month-old twins. Our girl figured out pulling herself to stand about six weeks ago, and our boy got there a couple weeks ago. He’s less steady than her, but they’ve both had their share of falling down or knocking their heads into the underside of our dining chairs, and every time they fall down or bang heads, I die a little more. While I do have some daytime help, I’m alone with them about 30 hours a week, and I literally can’t be there to catch them all the time. I do have to pee sometimes! Also, there’s two of them! We did our absolute best to baby-proof our two largest rooms and provide safe pull-up surfaces for them to practice standing and shuffling, but we can’t lay down rubber flooring absolutely everywhere, and I don’t know how to protect them any better or not absolutely hate myself every time I’m across the room when one of them tumbles. Do you have any other tips I might not have thought of for preventing falls or helping them with their spatial awareness?

— My Babies Versus Gravity

Dear MBVG,

I’m so sorry! You just have to get through it. The vast majority of new parents learn suddenly that rectangular coffee tables are demons that actively draw your children to them in an attempt to dent their skulls and put out their eyes. Everything is slippery, everything is dangerous, and your precious babies are so fragile!

Happily, your precious babies are actually pretty dang tough, and they’re designed to fall over (from their own height, not, like, the kitchen table) and be OK. The fastest way to prevent falls, regrettably, is not the easiest: You have to let them fall a bunch until they get better at not falling. You’re doing great. Just hang in there until they stop having perma-bruises on their little foreheads.

Also, you are amazing for parenting twins, way to go!

• If you missed Wednesday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My question may come off as ridiculous, but I am genuinely concerned that I am doing something wrong. I am a very affectionate individual and will hug and kiss and squeeze family, friends, and their children. I have just never been a kiss-on-the-lips person unless it was a romantic partner. I consistently shower my toddler in kisses and hugs and tickles, and he has become a wonderful cheek kisser. But again, we don’t do lips. However, my boy’s grandmother kisses him on the lips, and my husband’s family kisses on the lips. Are we doing something wrong? Will our son be self-conscious when he sees other mommies and daddies kissing their kids on the lips? Or will he be confused when he gets kisses by grandparents?

—Kiss Me Not

Dear KMN,

You’re fine. Lots of people don’t kiss their kids on the lips. I don’t! He will not notice that his otherwise affectionate mother happens not to be a lip kisser.

All is well, enjoy your adorable baby. Give him a cheek kiss for me.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 20-month-old daughter has begun doing some odd things when frustrated. For example, if I gently tell her “no” or don’t respond to a request immediately, she will sometimes bang her head against a wall or slap herself in the head. Lately she’s been putting her finger in her eye as if she’s poking it. She always does these things while looking at us for our reactions. None of these behaviors have caused injury, but should we be concerned? Is this normal? How should we respond? For the record, she is usually a very cheerful, communicative, and agreeable child.

—It Freaks Me Out

Dear IFMO,

Kids, bless them, are geniuses at noticing what freaks you out. The fact she’s fishing for a reaction is very reassuring and puts this in the “most likely just an attention/frustration thing” box instead of the “developmental and emotional issues” box. Especially when kids haven’t yet grown a rich emotional vocabulary, they exhibit a lot of weird behaviors meant to let off steam and express themselves. If she’s not actually hurting herself, just studiously ignore it for now as opposed to reacting.

That being said, this is a situation that warrants a chat with your pediatrician. Knowing it’s probably nothing doesn’t cancel out that it could be something, so let’s run this one up the flagpole, shall we?


Ask a Teacher

My daughter is currently in half-day kindergarten. We’ve received one conference report, had one conference in mid-November, and we’ve received a few math assessment reports, but nothing else. There are conferences coming up in two weeks “if necessary.” I haven’t asked the teacher because her communication with parents about real issues is generally nonexistent. My kid likes her, and as long as that’s the case I’m generally going to roll with this, but in the meantime, how much info should I be getting about a kindergarten student’s performance?