A new Social Media craze is taking the world by storm. The Whatsapp Momo Challenge, has already been linked to a number of suicides. It is similar to other online challenges, such as the Blue Whale Challenge. This claimed the lives of up to 150 young people by suicide.
The Momo challenge first appeared on Facebook, but has now gone viral on WhatsApp. This is by far one of the most popular messaging apps used by children and teens. In a very short period of time the challenge has virtually gone world wide at this point. Authorities in several countries have issuing warnings for parents to watch out for the Momo challenge appearing in Whatsapp messages, for their own child's safety.
What is Momo?
Momo is a piece of art which was created by artist Midori Hayashi, who created the piece from used animal remains. Midori Hayashi specialises in creating horror themed creations. The piece of art is made more human in appearance, with the addition of distorted and exaggerated human features. Momo may not appeal to everyone's taste, due to the grotesque design, but art is generally not created with the intention to please everyone.
It is important to note, that Momo was not created for the purpose of being used in an online challenge. Images of the piece of art were shared online. Unfortunately some people, took the image and turned it in to a deadly online challenge. Momo was now a character with a history, if you don't obey Momo, you're going to die. If any of us were given a penny every time we were told “If you don't do it this time now, I'll kill ya when I get back”, there would be a ton of millionaires reading this now.
What is the Whatsapp Momo Challenge?
Children are encouraged to send a message to an unknown number on WhatsApp. The owner of this number sends back the image of Momo, with a warning. If the following tasks and requests are not complied with, then Momo will come after the receiver of the challenge, or they will have the curse of Momo put on them. It's as simple as that. The tasks and requests involve watching violently graphic content. There can follow further instructions, which may commence with an act of self-harm, but ultimately led on to a threatened visit from Momo, unless the person takes their own life.
WhatsApp is possibly one of the most popular messaging apps among adults and children alike. It's encrypted features are designed to secure the content being exchanged between people. This is the medium currently being used to spread the Momo challenge. Whatsapp is possibly being used as the preferred method to distribute this challenge, as individuals forwarding the harmfull challenges mistakenly believe, their identity will not be revealed. They are able to remain anonymous.
Anonomity online leads some to believe they can act in or behave in a manner without consequence. It is actually really difficult to be totally anonymous online. So for those who are involved in harming others through this challenge, and believe they will not be identified, we have only one thing to say “Don't be so sure about that one guys !!”
Our advice to Parents
Online challenges should remind us of Chain Letters, back in the dark age when you had to put a stamp on a letter, then walk all the way to the post office to send it. Now you had a long anxiously wait for a reply. On occasion a letter might arrive, telling you to pass this letter on to ten friends or harm, even certain death, would befall you, if you don't send a copy of the letter to ten of your friends. Online Challenges are this generations chain letter.
We have found that in speaking to children the best approach, is the most honest one. Children are both innocent and over trusting, especially when it comes to what they see on their devices. Explain that Momo is basically a chicken with a messed up head. It is art, not a scary monster who will come visit in the night if they do not take part in the tasks or challenges, they are receiving from an unknown number.
Momo used for Cyberbullying
Break this down to what it is, a way for people to get attention from others, by picking on a victim to cyber bully them. It is easy to see how a child would become immediately terrified by the image, so remind them, that is exactly all it is. Most importantly don't be frightened of it. By having this conversation with a child, you are able to disarm people who maliciously forward content such as this. You also prepare children, by letting them know it's just spam, delete it and move on. But only after they have shown, Mom, Dad or another trusted adult. Mom or Dad should screen capture the message and sender details. Make sure to report the content to the proper authorities and to WhatsApp.
Let us know, if your children have received the Momo challenge, so we can help monitor how far it is spreading. Young children have already taken their own lives as a result of taking part in this challenge. This is why it is essential for parents to discuss this with their children. Prevent them from jumping to the wrong conclusion or getting drawn in to yet another sickening online challenge.
Momo Information Poster for Parents