What is the Momo Challenge, what has the NSPCC said and what are schools doing about it?

A NUMBER of schools and organisations have issued warnings to parents about the “Momo Challenge”.

The “suicide challenge” game has been linked to the death of a 12-year-old girl but some think the whole thing is a hoax.

The disturbing avatar for Momo was created by a Japanese artist with no connection with the game
Kennedy News and Media

What is the Momo Challenge?

Momo is a disturbing WhatsApp “suicide” game feared to have taken the life of a 12-year-old girl.

In February, versions of the momo story went viral on social media. They attracted hundreds of thousands of shares and resulted in news stories reporting the tale.

According to the Computer Crime Investigation Unit in the Mexican state of Tabasco, the game started on Facebook where members were “challenged” to communicate with an unknown number.

Several users have reportedly claimed that Momo responds with violent images and players are threatened if they refuse to follow the game’s “orders” and dares.

However, it is not clear what the number is, although several fake numbers have reportedly been posted online.

The avatar used by Momo is an image of a woman with grotesque features and bulging eyes.

It is from a sculpture created by special effects outfit Link Factory, and was recently featured in a display at an art gallery in Tokyo, Japan.

Some versions of the tale suggested “hackers” made the image appear on the phone unexpectedly.

FOR KIDS: How to say no

It can sometimes be hard to stand up to your friends, so Childline offers the following tips on how to say no:

1) Say it with confidence:
Be assertive. It’s your choice and you don’t have to do something which makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

2) Try not to judge them:
By respecting their choices, they should respect yours.

3) Spend time with friends who can say ‘no’:
It takes confidence and courage to say no to your friends. Spend time with other friends who also aren’t taking part.

4) Suggest something else to do:
If you don’t feel comfortable doing what your friends are doing, suggest something else to do.

Any child worried about peer pressure or online worries can contact Childline on 0800 1111.

Speaking to BBC News Portuguese language site, 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.

Cops in Argentina are linking the game to the death of a 12-year-old who took her own life and have issued a warning to parents, the Buenos Aires Times reported.

In February, 2019, a British mum issued a chilling warning after her seven-year-old son told other kids they would be “killed in their beds” while playing the deadly “Momo” challenge.

On February 27, it was revealed that UK schools had sent out letters warning of the challenge.

And a young girl, 5, from Cheltenham cut off her own hair after being “brainwashed” by the sick Momo Challenge.

The UK Safer Internet Centre told the Guardian that the ‘challenge’ was “fake news”.

SAFETY NET: How to keep your child safe online

The Internet can be an amazing tool to help children learn and play.

But with the digital world changing all the time, how can you make sure your child is safe?

Set up parental controls

  • Parental controls can be used to block upsetting or harmful content, control in-app purchases or manage how long your child spends online
  • The filters can help control what time of day your child can go online, and to stop them from downloading apps they are too young for

Talk to your children

  • Have regular conversations about what your child is doing online
  • Explore sites and apps together
  • Talk about what personal information they should share online
  • Create a family agreement about what behaviour is appropriate when they are online

Do your research

  • Check through websites your child will use through the Net Aware
  • Change privacy settings and turning off location sharing

If you need help now, you can phone experts on the free NSPCC & O2 helpline 0808 800 5002

What has the NSPCC said?

The NSPCC said it had received more calls from newspapers than from concerned parents.

Andy Burrows, Associate Head of Child Safety Online for charity the NSPCC says parents should talk to their kids if they have concerns.

The charity Samaritans said it was “not aware of any verified evidence in this country or beyond” linking the momo meme to self-harm.

YouTube also said they had seen “no recent evidence” of videos promoting the challenge, but encouraged viewers to report videos if they did appear.

Charities have said the Momo Challenge was “fake news” spread by adults and added the warnings could become a self-fulfilling prophecy by encouraging kids to seek out potentially harmful material.

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, told the Guardian: “When trying to highlight risks to children, particularly in the online arena, it’s important to step back and assess what the real risk is.

“Sometimes, however well-meaning, warning of the dangers of something that you haven’t fully looked into amplifies its impact on children beyond the actual fact.”

What are schools doing about it?

Both schools and police forces have issued statements about the “highly inappropriate” challenge.

Haslingden Primary School near Blackburn claimed the video was “promoting children to do dangerous tasks without telling their parents.”

Is the Momo Challenge a hoax?

THE Momo Challenge is believed to have originated in South America.

The creepy face of a Japanese sculpture was hijacked and spread on WhatsApp – reportedly with instructions enticing children to perform a series of dangerous tasks including self-harm and suicide.

In recent days police and schools have issued warnings about the challenge arriving in the UK and a number of parents have said their children have been exposed to it.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom even told MPs the Government is “extremely concerned” about it.

But confusingly UK charities and internet experts have suggested the challenge is a hoax.

The Samaritans and the NSPCC said there is no confirmed evidence anyone has come to physical harm.

And YouTube claimed: “We have found no evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on YouTube.”

While it appears the challenge itself may not have reached Britain, sick copycats have been traumatising children by splicing a ghoulish video of a bug-eyed girl into Peppa Pig cartoons and Fortnite gameplay footage.

To contact NSPCC, you can call the helpline on 0808 800 5000 or children under 18 can call 0800 1111

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the Samaritans can be contacted on 020 7734 2800


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