Last school year, there was an online explosion of the concept of a creature called “Momo,” which was accompanied by an awkward and creepy photo of artwork that had been originally created by a Japanese artist. The links, shared by practically everyone with children, warned of an alarming trend where someone was reaching out to children online and threatening them as “Momo” and convincing them to commit suicide. The problem with this is that it was untrue and baseless.

Personally, I didn’t even talk with my kids about Momo or show them the photo. I simply reiterated the rules we already have regarding online behavior like “don’t communicate with strangers” and “if someone tells you to do something bad you must immediately tell a parent or teacher.” Still, my daughter, who was in second grade, came home about a week after I had seen the first posts, and she’d been indoctrinated with unfounded terror because suddenly so many parents and grown ups had bought into the concept of Momo that they had discussed it at school. Kids were talking about Momo on the bus. My independent daughter had stopped sleeping in her own bed overnight because she was fearful of some completely fabricated story that was posted online with an unrelated photo. Eventually, after some time and many conversations, my daughter moved on from Momo.