Recently there have been stories, articles and warnings online about challenges which encourage children and young adults to engage in harmful activities such as self harm and suicide. While most of these have been debunked as fake or are widely exaggerated, the images and stories can still be distressing for anyone who comes across them.
Momo, a terrifying looking puppet with elongated features and large eyes, is the most recent of these viral scares with some people claiming that Momo has contacted them on Whatsapp and other social sites and threatened them if they didn’t complete the challenges within a certain time.
Newspapers and social media have exacerbated this to the point where Momo has now become a worldwide issue. Parents writing warnings of the Momo challenges and newspaper articles aiming for clicks on their headlines have made it seem as though your children and students are very likely to come across this challenge.
In reality, besides for seeing the image of the puppet known as Momo across social media, there are no reported suicides or self harm incidents related to this challenge leading authorities to call it a hoax.
If your child hasn’t seen or heard of the challenges before, don’t bring the name of the challenge to their attention. The last thing you want is for them to be googling or looking up something that could scare them or make them uncomfortable. Make them aware that they can always come to you if they need to talk about anything or if they need help with something online.
If they have seen images or information online about these viral scares, it is important that you reassure them that they’ve done the right thing by coming to you. You can also explain that these images have been put online with the specific intent of scaring the people who see them. No harm will come to them if they don’t complete challenges put forward on social media and that they should report any of these images and challenges to the websites where they are found.
Think U Know and CEOP have released an online guide with more information on how to bring up this subject to children, as well as some of the Best Parental Control Tools to keep your children safe. BBC Own It has also released a video for young adults on what to do if they see something upsetting.