Opinion: We need to talk to our kids about Momo
PUBLISHED: 15:51 27 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:58 27 February 2019
You don't expect your child to have an existential crisis at nine.
Yet, when my son said to me the other day, ‘Mum, what’s the point in living if you’re only going to die anyway?’ I realised that now was the time to have that conversation.
There is huge uproar today about this ‘Momo challenge’ nonsense and it is horrifying to hear that videos are being made encouraging children to kill themselves. But it’s hardly surprising, is it?
The internet is life in all its most glorious and unsavoury forms, which is why we, as parents, have to be involved with what our children are doing and keep talking to them daily, hourly, about what that might be.
It’s no good just kicking off whenever something really horrific appears, like Momo. The threat is there every day – and not just online either.
A friend told me recently that she knew of a child who had been told to kill herself by a classmate.
To me, that’s even more terrifying.
It took me years to get over being told I was pig ugly by one particular girl at school. I dread to think what would have happened if she’d told me to die as well.
The key to all this, though, is parents being vigilant, daily, which takes a bit of effort and can often lead to humiliation as we tread waters our children would probably far prefer us to stay out of.
I’m fairly relaxed about their internet use, but I will check with my 12 year old if I don’t recognise the name of one of the people with whom he is playing Fortnite.
‘Who’s this?’ I’ll say. ‘It had better not been some pervert.’
‘Don’t be stupid, Mum,’ will come the reply. ‘We learned about all that in school – although they wouldn’t use your word. But we never give out personal details. Who would?’
That was me told.
But I continue to nag and check because I have realised lately that the ‘not in front of the children’ approach I adopted when they were younger is well past its sell by date.
Now, there is nothing I don’t discuss with them.
If I’m feeling a bit miserable, I don’t try to pretend all is fine when they ask what’s wrong; I tell them. How else will they ever learn empathy?
We’ve discussed sex, relationships, mental health, and, yes, even suicide when these things have come up, or sometimes I’ve raised them myself in context.
If your children are asking existential questions and children at school are saying awful things, you damned well have to, however uncomfortable those conversations might seem to be at first.
We do our children a disservice by trying to pretend that life is all rosy.
They soon realise it isn’t when they reach maturity – so we should be doing all we can to equip them now.
No doubt shouting out for legislation to ban Momo content or whatever tomorrow’s new internet awfulness might be is a lot easier than just talking to your kids and telling them exactly what the point of living is.
But if you don’t know the answer to that, and you can’t explain it to them satisfactorily, then Momo, or whatever comes after it, is going to win.