'That's what Huggy Wuggy does': What to do if your child is terrified by this social media trend

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The character is part of a survival horror game called Poppy Playtime aimed at children eight years old and up. (YouTube/Rodri)
The character is part of a survival horror game called Poppy Playtime aimed at children eight years old and up. (YouTube/Rodri)

Huggy Wuggy is the name of the latest viral character impacting the minds of impressionable children

The disturbing character looks like a nightmare version of a teddy bear with a scary razor-sharp grin. 

Songs made by fans of the game on YouTube talk of the creepy character's "spine-breaking embrace".

As far as characters that could easily spook a child go, this one's up there with the best of them. 

Also read: 'A teddy bear with razor-sharp teeth': The latest disturbing social media trend affecting kids 

The character is part of a survival horror game called Poppy Playtime aimed at children eight years old and up. As one of the games most popular characters, Huggy Wuggy started trending on platforms like YouTube, TikTok and the gaming App Roblox. 

According to one mom, her three-year-old has had his perception of reality warped thanks to spotting the character on Roblox while his older sisters played a game on the platform. 

"He was going into school talking about killing and guns as if it was happening at home... He tried to climb up my bedroom window, saying he would die and come back to life, telling me that's what Huggy Wuggy does," UK mom Beth Buxton shared in an interview

Like Buxton's little boy,  your child may have come across the scary teddy and his disturbing songs while watching from a device unsupervised. 

Also see: The psychological impact of exposing children to 'harmful content' and why age restrictions matter  

So what to do? 

Here's a look at what experts say about addressing scary content and topics with your child, whether Huggy Wuggy related or otherwise. 

Ask direct questions 

Clinical psychologist Janine Domingues recommends asking your child directly whether they've seen the character, explaining that your acknowledgement of anything that might scare them is reassuring all on its own. 

Empathise with your child's fear 

For clinical psychologist Tony Ritchie, an add on to acknowledging the scary element is to take it as seriously as your child does. From there, you can dismantle the fear factor. 

"Talk with your child about their fear, and help them understand that what they've seen is meant to be scary… it is designed to scare people, and other children have been scared by this too". 

Help them distinguish between fantasy and reality

Letting your child know that the character is nothing more than a fictional creation will help them distinguish between fantasy and reality, says associate professor of psychology Dr Vanessa LoBue

Dr LoBue explains that this is due to what experts label "testimony". 

"Besides context, children also rely on what other people tell them—what researchers call testimony. Parents' testimony is usually a pretty reliable way to learn about the way the world works, and children typically trust what adults tell them". 

For support, contact the following organisations, most of which have 24-hour helplines:

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group: 0800 12 13 14

Akeso Behavioural Healthcare Group: 0861 4357 87

Recovery Direct: 079 235 7415

TherapyRoute: 0837420114 (WhatsApp) 

Child Protection Hotline: 076 900 7151 or email childprotection@toysforafrica.org.za 

Chatback:

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