A disturbing viral trend called the Momo Challenge is now prompting police in other parts of the world to issue warnings to parents.
The Momo Challenge surfaced in the United States last year, with many police departments and school districts reaching out to educate parents.
The Momo Challenge begins with receiving a notification on a social media network like Facebook or WhatsApp. Challenges start out small, like waking up in the middle of the night. But then they progress to more dangerous, even violent challenges, with requests for photographs for proof.
The challenge centers around a creepy image of a woman.
CBS News reports that the original image of Momo is actually a sculpture called “Mother Bird” by Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa. CBS News reports there is no evidence that Aisawa’s company, Link Factory, was involved in the creation or execution of the Momo challenge. CBS News did reach out to Link Factory for comment.
The Police Service of Ireland issued the following post Saturday, adding that parents should: “supervise the games your kids play and be extremely mindful of the videos they are watching on YouTube. Ensure that the devices they have access to are restricted to age suitable content.”
Schools across the UK are also posting about the Momo Challenge.
While the challenge is disturbing and causing concern for parents, PSNI Craigavon emphasized that even basic research suggests it’s run by hackers looking for personal information.
“Whatever or whoever is behind it, there is no disputing the content being sent is horrendous. The set up can come from countless other apps- anything with a chat function. A ‘curse contact’ sends a number and tells you to contact them on Whatsapp. One video of such interaction in America I’ve seen shows an ominous sounding voice recording being sent to a child telling them to take a knife to their own throat. Another threatens family if a ‘challenge’ is not completed. It’s chilling viewing. There are numerous variations and of course now imitators,” the post states.
The post emphasizes that the real danger lies with children feeling pressured to follow the orders of any challenge or peer pressure in chat rooms online.
“Don’t focus only on Momo, but make sure you know what your child has online access to. More important is that your child knows not to give out personal info to ANYONE they don’t know, that no one has the right to tell them to, or make them do ANYTHING they don’t want to,” according to the post. “When it comes to devices, all phones have parental controls, and various things can be put in place via the network provider. If in doubt, ask. If there’s parents out there who have found methods that work, discuss it here for everyone’s benefit.”
YouTube issued the following statement to CBS News regarding the challenge: “Our Community Guidelines prohibit harmful and dangerous challenges, including promoting the Momo challenge, and we remove this content quickly when flagged to us.”
A WhatsApp spokesperson issued CBS News the following statement: “It’s easy to block any phone number and we encourage users to report problematic messages to us so we can take action.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) . It is a free, 24/7 service that offers support, information, and local resources. You can also click here for additional hotlines within your state.
For more on the Momo Challenge, click here.