While scrolling through Facebook, as usual, I saw a post from a friend who has a kid a little older than my son. Her post was along the lines of the Momo story – that character that went around YouTube a couple of years ago challenging kids to certain tasks, including self-harm. But this post was about Huggy Wuggy, a character from Poppy Playtime.
My friend’s post shared a link from one of those websites that you never really know if you can trust. I read the headline and what she had to say about it. She said her son hadn’t seen the character, Huggy Wuggy, but she spoke with other parents from their school who said their kids knew about it. I took that tiny bit of information and filed it away in my head for later.
Coincidentally, that night I was getting my son ready for bed. In the middle of his bedtime resistance, between the, “Can I have a drink?” and, “How many mountains are there in the world?” questions, he blurted out, “Did you know Huggy Wuggy is a blue bear that will kill you?”
Yeah, my five-year-old kindergartener just brought up a YouTube bear that he thinks will kill people. I never thought I’d be here. At least not this soon. The first thing I thought of was the little rhyming song my family used to sing when I was little. You know, this one:
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?
Then my son said, “Huggy Wuggy hugs you until you die.”
I was shocked.
The thing is, my son hadn’t been in school for four days at this point (including the weekend) because he was sick, so I know exactly what he had been doing during his four days at home. The only things he has access to watch are Netflix and Disney+ on our one television in the house. That TV is located where everyone can see it. That means Huggy Wuggy and his death hugs were living in my son’s mind for that long, and he didn’t say a word about it. He never brought it up when I asked him the usual, “How was your day?” Or “What did you do at school today?” questions, and I think that’s what bothers me the most about this.
How long has he known about Huggy Wuggy, the murderous bear, and I haven’t?
I needed to figure out everything he knew about this character. So, of course, I casually grilled him:
- How do you know about Huggy Wuggy?
- Who told you about Huggy Wuggy?
- Where did you see Huggy Wuggy?
- Who is Kissy Missy?
- Do you know Huggy Wuggy and Kissy Missy aren’t real?
His responses were:
- I saw a picture of him at school.
- No one told me about him. (Note – he often says things like this when he thinks he’s in trouble, so I reassure him he is not in trouble.) He then tells me another student showed him a picture of Huggy Wuggy.
- I saw him on another student’s computer.
- Kissy Missy kisses you until you die, and then she eats you. I think she lives with Huggy Wuggy.
- They look real.
In response to his statement that these characters look real… “I know they look real, but sometimes people can wear costumes that look real, or make things that look real using a computer. Huggy Wuggy and Kissy Missy are not real. Things that are not real can’t hurt you. Do you understand that?”
After more, “I’m thirsty,” bedtime delays, I turned to Google. My search results were disappointing from a parenting standpoint. There really wasn’t much out there about this. I came across mostly toy advertisements, fan art, and creepy-looking YouTube thumbnails. I didn’t bother watching any of them either. A friend with older children told me that Huggy Wuggy and Kissy Missy are characters from a video game called Poppy Playtime.
How have we come to the point where all topics are easily accessible to children on a vast variety of media? It’s mind-boggling how elementary students can just pull up anything online. And it’s even more concerning that scary video game characters are marketed to kids and getting past parental controls by using cute names- and other deliberately obtuse tactics. It makes me disappointed in society. It also makes me second-guess my parenting, which while beneficial at times, adds to the load I already carry as a parent. Do I now need to exhaustively examine every fluffy cartoon character?
If you take anything out of this post, it’s this: watch your kids and their devices.
Kids’ minds mature at different times, and what may be appropriate for one kid could cause nightmares in another (especially at five). And, keep your older kids in check. They don’t need to be scaring the littles with this kind of nonsense.
Now, onto my next task… making the school aware of what is happening on their computers.
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