A creepy new challenge called “Momo” has been spreading around social media, prompting police to issue warnings about the shocking challenge since it has been linked to the suicide of a young girl in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Buenos Aires Times reported. La Republica suggested that the series of photos (or challenges) that Momo sends may actually be steps toward committing suicide, such as sending a photo of someone tying a sheet around their neck.
What is Momo?
This latest disturbing challenge is not all that new as it has links to other infamous online challenges like The Slenderman and The Blue Whale, which have led some impressionable young people to commit suicide and even attempt murder.
The avatar used by Momo is an image of a woman with creepy features and bulging eyes taken from the work of a Japanese special effects company called Link Factory, who is not associated with the game in any way.
BBC News Portuguese reported that Rodrigo Nejm of Brazil’s NGO Safernet said it’s unclear how widespread the game is but claimed it was most likely a form of “bait” used by criminals to steal data and extort people on the internet.
How does the Momo Challenge work?
The Momo game involves challenging kids and teens to add or message a particular Momo-associated contact on their WhatsApp with an unknown number. This unknown contact is supposed to be the terrifying “Momo”. Several different phone numbers have been associated with Momo on WhatsApp making it unclear who exactly is responsible for the messages.
According to many online stories, most teens attempting the challenge don’t ever hear back from “Momo”. Those who have, claim that the mysterious messages coming from “Momo” send users violent images, followed by threats if the player refuses to follow their directions. Often the users are encouraged to harm themselves or else their private information will be shared publicly. Other times, “Momo” is said to have threatened to hurt the teens’ friends or family in order to coerce them into doing what “Momo” says to do.
Photos of interactions, however, are extremely difficult to come by, leading many to assume this whole thing could be just a hoax. Others believe that “Momo” is more about acquiring personal information and perhaps installing spyware, rather than threats.
What Can Parents Do?
Even when these social media challenges are a “hoax” the story, images and videos like this one can be disturbing and troubling for younger teens. We always recommend talking to your children about how these videos are not real and that the challenges issued should not be taken seriously. If viewing YouTube videos have become a problem, Netsanity offers parents some options:
Parents can utilize Appblocker to either hide the YouTube app or block internet access altogether during the times that you feel may be appropriate. Using Timeblocker, parents can even lock the screen and disable the fingerprint sensor to completely lock the iPhone during bedtimes.
These type of social media challenges are a great opportunity to talk to your teens about risk assessment, and the dangers of how often these creepy stories and characters are used as bait by criminals to steal data and extort people on the internet. Walking your kids through the challenge, and why it’s a bad idea, means that next time they’ll be able to recognize a dangerous challenge when the next one comes along and it will.
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741-741.
To learn more about the warning signs and risk factors of suicide, click here.