Yesterday, Faithit reported on the dangerous ‘Momo Challenge’ that is recently making a comeback since it was first identified last July.
Multiple parents have reported that their children have seen the scary image of the bug-eyed, black-haired girl spliced into YouTube Kids videos, Fortnite, and Peppa Pig.
Momo is actually a sculpture called “Mother Bird” originally created by the Japanese firm Link Factory. The company claims to have no involvement with the suicide game, but that hasn’t stopped its image from being used to scare children into thinking it’s a living, breathing entity.
Once it cuts into the screen, the Momo character asks kids to contact her and give her their phone number. They are then sent instructions to self-harm via WhatsApp or other online platforms, often along with death threats to the player or the player’s family for not complying. Several kids have cited that Momo has told them they “will be killed in their sleep” if they don’t follow through. Refusal can also “trigger [other] abusive messaging and their mobile device being hacked,” according to a parent fact sheet created by South West News Service. The last challenge is for the player to commit suicide so they can meet “Mother Bird.”
While the challenge has invaded many countries globally — including the U.S. and Canada — concern is particularly running rampant in Europe as of late. It was ignited by a viral story of an 8-year-old from Edinburgh, U.K. who was told by Momo to put a knife to his neck.
“He showed me an image of the face on my phone and said that she had told him to go into the kitchen drawer and take out a knife and put it into his neck,” the boy’s mother, Lyn Dixon, told the Daily Mail on Tuesday. “We’ve told him it’s a load of rubbish and there are bad people out there who do bad things but it’s frightening, really frightening.”
The 8-year-old has remained haunted by the scarring image for months, particularly after another recent encounter… and he’s far from the only one.
Since the story started spreading like wildfire yesterday, schools, police, and parents who say their kids, too, have seen Momo are issuing warnings.
Law enforcement is encouraging parents to talk to their kids about the importance of resisting the pressure to follow harmful instructions or those that require you to give up personal information.
“Even basic open source research suggests that ‘Momo’ is run by hackers who are looking for personal info,” wrote PSNI Craigavon. “The danger lies with your child feeling pressured to either follow the orders of ANY app via ‘challenges,’ or peer pressure in chat rooms and the like … 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.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland also advised parents to be extra vigilant of their children’s media consumption:
“Our advice as always, is to 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.”
Though the latest scare is Momo surfacing on YouTube Kids, Peppa Pig, and Fortnite, the creepy creature had its beginnings on WhatsApp. CBS News reached out to the company for comment.
“WhatsApp cares deeply about the safety of our users,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told CBS this week. “It’s easy to block any phone number and we encourage users to report problematic messages to us so we can take action.”
YouTube is also under fire from parents outraged that their filters are not tighter.
While YouTube has made many claims in recent weeks to be cracking down on the pedophile ring found on the platform as well as these suicide challenges surfacing, parents say it simply isn’t working.
Talk to your child about the ‘Momo Challenge’ today, and be sure to share this information with the parents you know on Facebook.