Much ado about less than nothing

A warning raised by the government about something called a “Momo Challenge” turned out to be a humungous waste of time.

Parents were warned to make sure that their kids avoid the challenge, which had spread over social media, primarily over Facebook and WhatsApp.

A truly horrific looking doll was supposedly luring impressionable kids to engage in dangerous tasks, with suicide as the most extreme step they are dared to take.

It was so silly that adults were aghast that both the Department of Education and the Department of Information and Communications Technology stepped in to investigate what was clearly a hoax.

Other government agencies were brought in to “investigate,” including the Philippine National Police, the Justice department, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, among others.

Everyone involved had apparently been watching too many horror movies about evil dolls that have the power to make humans commit unspeakable acts.

No really. Aside from the B-movies about such dolls, there are also numerous videos on YouTube “proving” that such things exist in real life.

Indeed, fact did mix with fiction where the Momo doll was concerned.

That ugly doll, incidentally, was a creation of a Japanese artist by the name of Kaisuke Aiso, who recently said he had destroyed his creation after learning of the mental and emotional damage it had caused countless kids.

This was yet another example of the harm – danger, even – that social media can cause when left unregulated.

Like it or not, today’s youth have excessive access to social media, no thanks to parents who are themselves addicted to online existence.

The Momo Challenge will become yesterday’s meaningless fad, if it hasn’t already. But it is a certainty that something else will take its place, sooner rather than later.

There are those who argue that any form of regulation of the content available online is a form of censorship, and should therefore be avoided at all cost.

Not so. We are all treading on uncharted territory here, fraught with dangers we cannot even imagine.

This is not to say that the internet is a menace. It doesn’t have to be. There is so much great content available online that anyone can learn something new just by searching for his/her desired data.

As an example, I have been learning to cook all kinds of dishes because instructional or tutorial videos are available with ease. I’ve watched the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Martha Stewart give cooking tips that have proven invaluable.

I also bought a guitar last year after nearly four decades without playing one. Playing tips from teachers both famous and unknown have helped me get my groove back. The instructional videos are all over YouTube.

I also learned quite recently that a number of classic Tagalog movies are available for free in Vimeo, including films made before I was even born. Guys, you haven’t lived until you’ve watched the onscreen antics of Pugo and Togo (pronounced Tugo), a comedy duo that reportedly poked fun at the Japanese occupants of the country during World War II by doing ‘vodavil’ skits.

Yet the online world is chock full of dangerous stuff not fit for minors. For one thing, all kinds of porn is available online for free and this includes sickening stuff that I won’t even discuss here.

Also, fake news really is rampant online, as Donald Trump likes to claim. Except in his case, the fake news is about his claimed accomplishments, which are mostly figments of his imagination.

I know, I digress.

Going back to the Momo Challenge, it spread far and wide thanks to the unregulated nonsense found on the net.

As a journalist, I believe that censorship is generally a bad thing. Yes, everyone should be free to decide what to watch or read, be it in the movies, TV, newspapers, books, or electronic media.

There are, however, exceptions to the rule. Anything that causes harm, especially to young people, should be banned outright.