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What is Huggy Wuggy, the phenomenon that terrifies children and worries parents?

Many parents are sounding the alarm about the Huggy Wuggy phenomenon, which causes psychological trauma in some children. (©Monkey Business/AdobeStock)

A friendly smile that ends up revealing very sharp teethlong fluffy arms and child-like songs that are actually about violence or murder (“Give me a hug / My teeth will sink so deep into your lungs”; “Do you want to know how far I’m willing to go to find you and start devouring your soul “…).

Here is Huggy Wuggya colorful creature straight out of the horror video game Poppy Playtimereleased in 2021. Lately, this monster with fake plush looks has become a real social media phenomenonTikTok in the lead, and in the playgrounds.

The principle of the Poppy Playtime video game

In this horror-adventure video game, you take on the role of a former factory worker who makes toys and dolls that are very popular with children. You must return to the factory when you receive a letter and a video tape from an employee who disappeared 10 years ago. Objective: to discover the secrets behind this mysterious disappearance…

But behind the fashion effect, the psychological consequences are numerous for children: aggressiveness, anxiety, sleep disorders… Parents are sounding the alarm and calling for vigilance.

“My son is afraid to move around the house alone”

Six-year-old François is one of the children traumatized after being confronted by Huggy Wuggy. Last January, with a friend of her age, they came across a video of the blue monster.

“This video showed the character walking through a kind of dark hallway, it was really scary”, tells to news.fr Virginie, François’ mother. She admits being herself “embarrassed” by Huggy Wuggy, taken from a video game “really very creepy at the base. »

It shouldn’t happen to small children. It’s as if I had been sold, as a child, the exorcist or Freddy’s doll.

VirginiaFrancois’ mother

Videos: currently on Actu

This video deeply marks the two children, who make nightmares. But not only: François keeps talking about Huggy Wuggy and afraid to go home alone. The same goes for her friend, “who didn’t want to sleep alone for many weeks.”

Things settle down thereafter. Until François, who doesn’t have access to YouTube without his mother’s consent, comes across other videos and advertisements about Huggy Wuggy. “He started talking about it nonstop and drawing it again,” says this resident of Bastia (Corsica).

Since he watched videos featuring Huggy Wuggy, the character regularly returns in the drawings of François, 6 years old.
Since he watched videos featuring Huggy Wuggy, the character regularly returns in the drawings of François, 6 years old. (©DR)

An unavoidable phenomenon

The problem is that the phenomenon now crosses borders media and the Internet. Huggy Wuggy takes the form of a stuffed animal, a key ring, is displayed as an effigy on clothing, sits on birthday cakes and even invites itself into children’s coloring pages.

Just last week, at the playground of a fast food restaurant, François and a cousin of the same age cross paths with a little boy of the same age. “He had a stuffed animal bigger than him. My cousin’s daughter started screaming”, resumes Virginie fromnews.frforced, with his family, to leave the premises.

There was a gentleman with his son who was beside himself because his little boy had been traumatized like François. We talked and he told me pretty much the same story as mine. That’s when I realized they were going too far.

VirginiaFrancois’ mother

Without knowing the video game, difficult to miss. Even YouTubers are taking over the subject and stage themselves playing Poppy Playtime to take advantage of the fashion effect.

This is the case, for example, of Locklear (1.46 million subscribers) or Furious Jumper (4.16 million subscribers), with their videos respectively entitled “THE FEAR OF MY LIFE (Poppy Playtime)” and ” NEVER GO to this TOY FACTORY. »

Night terror, nightmares, anxiety…

Several psychologists have since spoken out to denounce the consequences of this exposure of children to Huggy Wuggy. Among these specialists, the neuropsychologist Lizette Anguiano, based in Belgium.

At the beginning of April, on Facebook, following the passage to her office of several children, from 7 to 12 years old, traumatized, she split a long message intended for the parents. A personal initiative that she details withnews.fr.

“I saw more and more children in neuropsychological consultation who told me about Huggy Wuggy, where he came back regularly in the form of a drawing or modeling clay. The character really occupied their thoughts, ”says the specialist.

In other children who said they were very scared, had sometimes very violent nightmares (“they were being attacked, sometimes with their family”), had trouble sleeping without a night light or who had changed their behavior, when Lizette Anguiano evokes Huggy Wuggy, tongues loosen.

I observe emotional disturbances: children who become more irritable, more anxious, have an irrational fear. Some are also more hostile towards others, sometimes to the point of confrontation.

Lizette AnguianoNeuropsychologist

“He is a character created to scare”

No need necessarily to have been confronted with Huggy Wuggy. After hearing classmates recount the videos during recess, sing video game songs with sometimes very violent lyrics or bring their stuffed animals bearing the image of the character, some children let their imaginations work.

“It is all the more misleading for the child: Huggy Wuggy takes on the look of a cartoon, but he’s a horror character, created to scare”explains to news.fr Pascaline Bonnet, clinical psychologist based in Marseille. It is, moreover, the whole point of Poppy Playtime which is played in first person.

But given its popularity beyond the media, it’s even harder to sort it out. “Obviously, that raises the question of the techniques used for this character, which do not affect the right audience,” she continues, adding that “a child does not have the same discernment as an adult. »

It’s not a video for children his age, because they don’t yet know the difference between fiction and reality. The grown-ups know it’s not real. Growing up, he will understand better that there was no reason to be afraid because it does not exist.

VirginiaFrancois’ mother

“When the story of the Big Bad Wolf is told, the parent is there to introduce the story, modulate it. And the parent is a known figure, ”continues Pascaline Bonnet. “The adult reassures, secures. There, the child is alone in front of his screen facing Huggy Wuggy, ”adds Lizette Anguiano.

Talk about it to exteriorize

Dialogue appears to be an indispensable weapon to calm children’s anxieties. “Robin came home from school yesterday telling me about that famous Huggy Wuggy. He does not play any video game, but he hears children talking about it, who draw it…”, illustrates Florence, in a message posted on Facebook.

Luckily, continues this “tired and worried” mother, “it’s a child who confides and talks to me. » Same thing for Virginie, who recognizes that she and François “talk a lot. » “I tell him that it’s normal that he was scaredbecause the video he saw is very scary,” she explains.

His strategy: don’t minimize fear, but accompany him, make him understand why it’s legitimate and reassure him at the same time about the fictional aspect of the character. It is very important that the child admit your own fear. But he may not be able to do it alone.

“This is where the adult comes into play, because the child is looking for a figure of authority, reassuring, to listen to him, accompany him, protect him”, insists Lizette Anguiano. An opinion shared by his colleague from Marseille.

The solution is exchange, communication. It can take time, the time that the children digest what they have been confronted with.

Pascaline BonnetClinical Psychologist

Banned in schools

More than two months after her intervention on social networks, Lizette Anguiano finds that her message is still shared and commented on, in Belgium, France and sometimes elsewhere. “Proof that we have not finished hearing about this Huggy Wuggy”, blows the neuropsychologist.

Some schools have chosen to take the lead. In Mouscron (Belgium), near the border, the Sainte-Marie basic school has decided to ban Huggy Wuggy from playgrounds.

Contacted by news.frthe director of the establishment did not wish to speak on this subject.

The video game publisher, MOB Games, has not yet responded to our requests.

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