Some parents may have become aware of a new craze on YouTube called the ‘Momo Challenge’.
It basically involves an disturbing avatar called Momo, and apparently encourages children to carry out dares; examples include texting or calling strangers’ numbers that they find on the internet, and so on increasing in risk, or challenges that involve dangerous or harmful activities, ranging from watching a horror movie or staying up late, right up to self harm and taking pills.
As they do this, Momo tells them the children to film themselves doing it and send the clips back to Momo. The Momo character is based on a Japanese art sculpture that was designed to disturb anyone who sees it. The Momo challenge is another example of an internet meme gone rogue.
Children who have supposedly watched this are threatened not to say anything to adults, otherwise something bad will happen to them or members of their family.
Usually, Momo comes on halfway through another video, such as uploaded Peppa Pig clips, in much the same way that the Rick Rolling craze did some time ago. The face of Momo is a warped human face, and is designed to keep children watching.
This has parallels with the Blue Whale Challenge recently, another disturbing meme/game that originated on the VK.com website, that is rumoured to kill whoever plays it. In Russia alone, where it originated, if the hype is to be believed, that it has claimed over 130 lives, and many more worldwide.
Other names for it include ‘Death Group’, ‘The Silent House’ and the ‘Suicide Challenge’, amongst others. The reason the craze has been called the Blue Whale challenge, is to do with the phenomenon of Beaching, where Blue Whales inexplicably beach themselves, dying in the process.
The parallels in this instance are obvious.
We would encourage parents to openly discuss this latest disturbing craze with their children, especially if they actively use YouTube, in a calm and measured manner, and to be mindful of this latest disturbing trend.
While there is little concrete evidence that this is a little more than a nasty internet viral prank designed to cause moral panic and scare people, it is worth talking to your children about this, and to play down the fear aspect of the meme. If your child is frightened, calmly reassure them that it is just a malicious prank, and if they see anything like it, to talk to you or their teachers.
This article has been revised following the latest news on the topic. While we do not expect the fuss to die down any time soon, it is worth telling your children that it is nothing more than a malicious joke, and that the police and teachers are aware of it. Please watch this BBC Newsnight article.
Red (Parents and Police Aware)