Parents are concerned over viral online ‘challenge’ allegedly targeting children

February 27, 2019 - 7:00 PM
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A new online 'challenge' is targeting children. And parents need to be aware. (Pixabay)

(Updated Feb. 28, 3:25 p.m.) An alleged online “challenge” persuading children to undertake tasks that could lead to serious physical injuries has alarmed parents from different countries after authorities recorded incidents that lead to child deaths.

International reports named it as the Momo Challenge wherein a horrific image of a woman scares children through WhatsApp, an online messaging platform, and tricks them into inflicting self-harm.

An article from Rolling Stone explained that the challenge has been around in the “dark corners” of the internet for a long time.

It surfaced and made rounds again when a police station from Ireland issued a warning on Facebook to parents regarding the image of “Momo” appearing in some harmless online games and YouTube videos.

Momo asks the child to download it when it appears onscreen, the Police Service of Northern Ireland explained, and then it communicates with instructions to commit self-harm in order to avoid being cursed.

**Suicide game targeting our kids**Some information on the latest "Momo" game which is doing the rounds at the moment…

Posted by Police Service of Northern Ireland on Saturday, February 23, 2019

It’s not certain when the actual challenge or game started, but the origin of the photo could be traced back to 2016.

The physical attributes of Momo was associated with a sculpture created by a Japanese artist named Keisuke Aisawa, who worked at a company specializing in horror film props and special effects called Link Factory.

The original image was also not scary, according to the article.

“The sculpture was displayed at a show at the Gen (Vanilla) Gallery, a gallery in Tokyo’s Ginza district, way back in August 2016. With her bird-like claws, she may be inspired by the Japanese bird woman, or ubume, a wraith-like figure who is said to have died during childbirth,” EJ Dickson wrote.

When it was first posted on Instagram, it soon gained traction to be discussed on horror Reddit communities such as r/creepy.

It was somehow used to create a “game” that targets children.

According to a BBC article, this was similar to the Blue Whale game in 2015 allegedly linked to the deaths of numerous teenagers in many parts of the world, including the Philippines. It soon turned out to be a hoax.

The task allegedly starts by waking up the child and instructing him/her to cut a whale’s outline into the person’s arm.

People have also long speculated the reason for using blue whales, but nothing was certain as of now.

“It’s difficult, of course, to say why certain images particularly resonate. Whales are solitary-seeming, sad-looking animals. They make for good memes. One of the most widely shared images was of a whale flying over a city at night. It captured the spirit of these groups – melancholy and quietly surreal,” said Ant Adeane.

In the Philippines

The number of alleged deaths linked to playing these games or watching such videos on YouTube have not yet been confirmed in the Philippines.

Broadcaster Erwin Tulfo posted the story of a young boy suspected to have died by playing either the Momo challenge or the Blue Whale challenge.

It could not be verified what was the direct cause of the boy’s death.

The Ireland police station that brought to light this phenomenon suggests that parents should supervise the games or videos that their children play and watch online.

“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 be restricted to age suitable content,” the police said.

An article from Smart Parenting also said that it’s important to train children to be more discerning and have a good relationship with them.

“When that is present, it is the kids themselves who will alert you of inappropriate clips you saw,” psychologist Dr. Michele Alignay advised.