In a previous article, we made parents aware of the very real risks of the Momo suicide challenge, spreading on Whatsapp. These online cyberthreats may seem mild or absurd to mature adults, but for children, this is no joke. The Momo Challenge is a a very serious cyber threat with real consequences as highlighted from two recent victims in Colombia. Yes, it’s true: the Momo challenge causes death.
Quick Recap: What is the Momo Suicide Challenge?
The Momo Suicide Challenge is a game which has roots in Japan. Essentially, it all started with Facebook group members daring themselves to contact an unknown number.
Nowadays, the suicide game is popular on both Facebook and Whatsapp. Participants are pressured to contact an anonymous person with an unknown number posing as “Momo”, a fictional entity. “Momo” is actually Midori Hayashi’s artwork in Tokyo’s horror Art Vanilla Gallery.
The challenge proceeds as “Momo”:
- instructs children to engage in odd activities, like waking up at night or overcoming a fear
- tells participants to film themselves doing these activities and send it via Whatsapp or Facebook
- gives more dangerous instructions which eventually escalate into suicide, if the player succeeds
The challenge always starts with participants contacting someone posing as “Momo”. | Image source: stock photo
In fact, Momo’s messages aren’t even normal, but rather filled with violent or scary content. “Momo” will even call participants and intimidate them. Refusing to do the challenge will make her curse you.
Momo Challenge Causes Death of Two Children
Recently, reports have emerged of real deaths in Barbosa, Colombia, due to the Momo suicide challenge.
First, a 16-year-old boy committed suicide. Within a short 48 hours, the lifeless body of a 12-year-old girl was found dangling from a wardrobe.
Apparently, the 16-year-old knew the 12-year-old-girl and had shared the game with her before taking his life.
Police and authorities are acting vigilantly in the wake of this event. Once they took hold of the phones of the two victims, police said they found messages connected with the deadly cyberthreat.
Janier Landono, a government secretary of Colombia, remarked that the two kids played the game via Whatsapp, which “invited the young people to hurt themselves”. She adds that “the game has different challenges and the suicide is at the end.”
Officials have recognised this cyberthreat and are actively working with schools to alert children to not participate in the game. Other countries are also taking proactive steps, with Spanish Police posting on social media like Twitter to remind followers to refrain adding “Momo” on WhatsApp.
Tips to Tackle This Life-Threatening Cyberthreat
Parents, we know that you’re worried and scared. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. Remember, prevention is always better than cure – so knowing the warning signs can prevent the worst from becoming real.
How to shield your kids before “Momo” reaches them:
- Monitor and supervise your child’s online activity. You can ask your child for their phone and check through their Whatsapp activity briefly.
- Educate your children about the dangers. Let your child know that suicide won’t benefit anyone, and that it will only hurts their loved ones. Listening to Momo’s instructions won’t do anyone good: It will just cause people to get hurt.
- Be open with your kids, and encourage them to be a positive influence. If your child is old enough to understand clear risks, talk to them openly about this game. Tell them why they should not participate in it. Also, encourage them to be a pillar of support for their peers!
Talking to your child is the best way to find out if something’s wrong. | Image source: stock photo
But what if my child is already playing it?
One of the first key steps is to know the red flags – like signs of distress, out-of-character behaviour, aggressiveness, social withdrawal, anxiety, or fear.
If you suspect or actually do find out that your child is engaging with “Momo”, confront it with positivity. Here’s what the MOE recommends:
- Talk about your child’s feelings. Talk to your child with a smile. You have to make them feel safe confiding in you. Ask them calmly what the problem is and if you can help.
- Stand by their side in this challenge. Assure him or her that “Momo” doesn’t exist, and that it’s okay to refuse instructions or go against peer pressure. If your child is too scared, say that you’ll stand by their side no matter what happens.
- Talk about what your child is watching or playing. You can talk about which characters your teen liked or disliked, and why he or she felt this way.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your child direct questions if they’ve done anything dangerous or had a scary experience. Open up a healthy discussion with questions like “Have you ever been scared by someone recently?”
Don’t forget that numbers can be blocked in or deleted in your child’s phone (do this while they’re asleep). If “Momo” has reached your child, you can also take steps to prevent it from happening again, such as by informing other parents, filing a police report, and bringing your child to a paeditrician or a psychologist if suffered some psychological trauma.
If you want to talk to a professional or a counselor, you may contact these places:
- HOPELINE: +632 804-HOPE (4673) / +63917 558 HOPE (4673) / toll free number for Globe and TM 2919 / visit their website here
- Psychconsult, Inc.: +632 421 2469 / +632 357 6427 / +63917 808 0193 / visit their website here
- In Touch Philippines: +632 893 7603 / +63917 800 1123 (Globe) / +63922 893 8944 (Sun) / visit their website here
We can beat it, parents! You just need to know how.
References: CBN News, Twitter, YouTube
Originally published with permission from The Asian Parent Singapore