Parents around the world are being cautioned of the dangers of online games after reports of a ghoulish face with bulging eyes and a hair-raisingly creepy smile, the “Momo Challenge” went viral.

The game which allegedly surfaced on YouTube Kids and the popular game “Fortnite” is said to targets young children and encourages self-harm and suicide. Contradictory stories of whether the Momo Challenge is real or not have left parents concerned for their kids safety.

In the light of the stories, parents are encouraged to communicate regularly with their children and find out if they are viewing harmful images or videos. Other alternatives include the use of monitoring software such as Bitdefender Central appwhich allows parents to control and stay one step ahead of their children’s online activity.  

Parameters can be set up on kid‘s devices, limiting what they are able to access, parents can block certain websites, phone contacts, control their child’s screen time and even provide their location. The app provides a detailed insight into their child’s online activity, such as if they are attempting to view blocked sites and more.

The story gathered attention when reports by Buenos Aires Times states that a 12-year-old girl, who took her own life in August 2018 after she had been ‘playing’ the game, may have done so due to the game’s insidious effects.

“Authorities are investigating whether she was motivated to take her own life because of the so-called Momo Game, a WhatsApp-based terror game,” the report reads.

However, it is uncertain if her suicide can be linked directly to the online challenge.

The Momo Challenge apparently appears on the online platforms with a scary image of Momo’s face and encourages users to make contact with ‘her’ on Whatsapp through one of several contact numbers. These clips and images of Momo are said to cause severe anxiety to children, as the character tells them to complete challenges that they must keep secret, or “Momo will kill them”. A parent in the UK shared this heartbreaking video of her son’s response to her when she asked him about Momo.


The face of ‘Momo’ is in fact a sculpture titled ‘Mother Bird’ that was created by a Japanese artist. It is owned by Link-Factory, a special effects company in Japan. Neither the artist or the company have any connection to the online game.

Images first surfaced of the scary-looking creation on the Internet in 2016.

 

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MOTHER-BIRD by #LinkFactory/#KeisukeAisawa (2016, On Display at @vanillagallery_jp) #BetweenMirrors ƑØLLØᙛ ► @Between.Mirrors

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Victims of the Momo Challenge are allegedly given instructions via Whatsapp for an estimated 50 days and are promised the ‘reward’ of meeting Momo once they complete the challenge. Some individuals allege that they have received phone calls from ‘Momo’, in which they hear screams and other disturbing noises.

Reports of the horrifying challenge appeared in America in 2018 and has spread across the globe. Various police units and schools are encouraging parents to monitor their children’s social media and to look out for the Momo Challenge.

We have attempted to find out if this Momo Challenge is in fact a hoax, but our search has come up empty.

The Express UK recently reported on a viral video in the United Kingdom in which a seven-year-old from Bolton is seen telling his school friends “that doll-like creatures would kill them in their sleep” in relation to the online game.

An eerie song has surfaced on YouTube and YouTube Kids, popping up in videos on the supposedly child-friendly online network.

It has not yet been revealed who is behind the sinister game and authorities across the globe are trying to crack down on the Momo Challenge.

The dangers of the Internet 

As children gain easier access to the internet, they are increasingly at danger of coming across harmful videos and games, meaning parents need to be vigilant of what their children are watching or reading on social media.

Popular shows such as Peppa Pig have been manipulated on some YouTube channels to display acts of violence and death in the show. These sorts of videos have an uncanny likeness to the original shows but with shocking, harmful imagery. Some videos encourage children to commit dangerous acts such as becoming a ‘fire fairy’ by turning on the gas oven and leaving it on.

Parents can do the following to ensure the safety of their children: 

1. Teach children not to share any personal information online, whether with a friend or stranger

2. Tell your children that under no circumstances should they meet a stranger face to face and, importantly, provide them with the platform to talk to you honestly about any requests or interaction that might feel uncomfortable

3. Invest in reputable security software that will enable you to proactively monitor and control your child’s online activities. Bitdefender Internet Security 2019 and Total Security 2019 security software options come with a compelling Parental Control feature.

On March 1 the Western Cape Government release this information from the Minister of Social Development, Albert Fritz:

Amidst recent reports of the Momo challenge circulating on the internet; the Minister of Social Development, Albert Fritz, is calling on parents to teach their children how to use the internet safely.

The Momo challenge is reportedly digitally-spread, via WhatsApp, and is similar to the Tide Pod Challenge. It allegedly seeks to teach children how to harm themselves and others. Children are reportedly contacted via WhatsApp whilst watching YouTube videos on Fortnight and Peppa Pig.

It should be noted that YouTube Kids has however not received any evidence of this challenge, nor has any content been found on YouTube Kids.

Regardless, the Momo challenge highlights an increasing need within this digital age for parents to educate their children on how to use the internet safely to prevent being targeted.

Minister Fritz said, “Reported threats such as these should not cause hysteria but rather should serve to encourage parents to take a more proactive approach to their children’s internet use. While the internet can be an excellent learning platform for our children; it can also put them at risk of cyberbullying, cyber predators, sharing private information, phishing, scams, malware and exposure to harmful norms and attitudes.”

Minister Fritz further added, “I call on parents to protect their children from these harms by urging them not to share personal information and pictures, monitoring their internet usage, by blocking inappropriate websites, instructing them not speak with strangers or add them on social media, making use of specific child friendly websites and platforms and by keeping an open line of communication with your child so that they can report any possible threats to you.”

Under the leadership of Minister Albert Fritz, the Western Cape Department of Social Development remains committed to protecting children from harm.

 

Pictures: Twitter

Article written by

Ishani Chetty

Ishani is a vegetarian who is passionate about animals, social issues, the environment and current affairs.