A new “Blue Whale” situation has appeared online in the form of the “Momo Challenge” and it is concerning. Headed by a freaky-looking ghoulish face with bulging eyes, this Momo Challenge has gone viral across the globe and is targeting kids and setting fear in parents.
The creepy video clip has been said to appear after videos on YouTube Kids related to things such as Peppa Pig, Minecraft and Fortnite. Some fake Facebook accounts are claiming that Fortnite has been hacked and the freakish character has appeared in the game and through voice chat but that is not the case.
The South African Film and Publication Board issued a statement regarding the Momo Challenge and according to the FPB monitoring systems, there have been no references at all to the challenge in South Africa.
Dr Maria Motebang said, “Our FPB online monitors conducted a search on legitimate and known App stores and were unable to find reference to the game. However, there is a possibility that the game may be shared on a peer-to-peer basis. Parents and guardians are therefore urged to monitor their children’s devices and report such content on the FPB hotline number 0800 148 148 or www.fpbhotline.org.za”.
The FPB says that even though there are no confirmed incidents in SA, parents are always urged to be aware of the safety and security of their children’s online presence.
“We urge parents to ensure that they adhere to age restrictions as assigned by the FPB. Age appropriate content goes a long way towards protecting your young ones from premature exposure to content that causes them psychological and developmental harm,” Dr Motebang adds.
The Momo Challenge is said to appear online with a scary image of this bird and encourages children to make contact with “her” through WhatsApp. She then tells kids that in order to complete the challenge they need to keep things a secret or “Momo will kill them”.
The Momo bird itself is actually a piece of art created by Japanese artist Midori Hayashi and is on display in a Tokyo art gallery for special effects. The artist and company have no direct links to the challenge at all.
As the challenge progresses, kids are encouraged to carry out acts that get more violent over time and even include self-harm. It then ends with a final task where Momo urges them to commit suicide. If they refuse to continue the game or ignore Momo, threats are sent to them.
The Momo challenge has yet to be officially confirmed as, like all things on the internet, you cannot believe it all but authorities have been working to get to the root of the challenge. The Police Service of Nothern Island issued a public warning to parents urging them to keep tabs on their kid’s social media, WhatsApp and YouTube viewing.
So is this Momo Challenge real? Well, yes and no. The widespread panic is being falsely shared across Facebook and it is getting bigger with lesser truth and fewer facts as it goes about. “The idea of a tech-savvy sociopath communicating with millions of kids around the globe via WhatsApp urging them to kill themselves is extremely farfetched” according to Benjamin Radford, research fellow for the committee for Skeptic Inquiry.
“There’s no real truth to [games like the Momo Challenge] or evidence that it’s a real threat,”
Things like this spread across social media like all fake news in an attempt to spread fear among parents and it gets bigger and bigger with more unconfirmed reports and lies.
Radford claims that “part of a moral panic, fueled by parents’ fears in wanting to know what their kids are up to…You have adults, who may be baby boomers — maybe they don’t text, maybe they’re not comfortable with technology. They’re wondering, ‘My daughter is always on my phone, who’s she talking to? What’s going on there?’ There’s an inherent fear in what young people are doing with technology.”
Yes, there is a giant big-eyed bird-like creature going around on Facebook but there is no truth behind the WhatsApp calls, Fortnite in-game appearances or the so-called Facetime video calls in which people claim Momo calls you. There is also no evidence to the so-called “suicide game” in which Momo tasks you to harm yourself. Right now, it seems like the Momo Challenge is nothing more than a scary image going around on the internet. Many people are reporting that the YouTube Kids app has shown the creepy video but again, there has been no proof of this as of yet as the no video has yet surfaced.
In the end, people are opportunists but then again, you should always be monitoring your child’s online activity. Educate your children about the dangers of the online world as much as you can and keep tabs on them. There is still a load of unconfirmed reports regarding this Momo Challenge so be wary.