MThanks to media attention and (understandably panicking) parents and adults – the Momo image is everywhere now.
this blog for a week now, not wanting to add to any sensationalism or
scaremongering – but we’ve been contacted by so many parents on the issue of
Momo it’s warranted now.
We’ve been here
before with the Blue Whale Challenge and will unfortunately be here again. As
parents you are the first line of defence against activity of this nature
online and hopefully the first to reassure your children they can be protected
against this kind of harm. A calm, careful, considered and age-appropriate approach
is needed in discussing Momo with children and teenagers. It won’t be the last of its type while social
media and tech companies facilitate the spread of this type of harmful material
by users who at best have nothing much
better to do and at worst enjoy creating and sharing traumatic content.
So is the Momo
Challenge real or an urban legend?
HOW DID IT START?
started in Mexico August 2016 and like the Blue Whale Challenge is being shared
IS IT FOUND?
Whatsapp, Twitter and Youtube and Youtube Kids. Momo content has also found its
way onto games Grand Theft Auto, Roblox and Minecraft. Many prominent You Tubers are also creating and
sharing videos relating to contacting Momo, though some are helping children
understand Momo is not real.
OF SUICIDE AND SELF HARM
have been reports of Momo-related suicides in Columbia, Argentina, India and
Turkey. None of these have been proven as yet.
I understand this is not reassuring.
reputed to be a Dare-type Challenge game or character on an existing game such
as Grand Theft Auto where the disturbing woman-bird avatar Momo challenges you
to complete tasks over a short time period. The challenges start off simply
enough, asking you to watch a horror film, wake up in the middle of the night
or play music loudly then are purported to progress to the avatar persuading
you to self-harm and a final command to commit suicide.
PSNI, Garda and police, schools and authorities worldwide have issued warnings
over their concerns.
in Yellowstone USA say one child was told his friends would be killed if he did
not complete the tasks. A mum from Bolton, Manchester took to social media to
warn parents that her son and some of his classmates were terrified that ‘Momo
was going to go into their room at night and kill them’. A grandfather reported on Lunchtime Live
Ireland that his 4 year old grandson had tried to open a bottle of tablets as
instructed by Momo and not to tell his mummy first. Fox News said Momo is ‘also linked to the theft of personal data, harassment, extortion,
anxiety, depression and insomnia’.
has been widespread criticism of social media and tech giants who have failed
to stamp out the game. Lunchtime Live also discussed the strong language used in the latest UK government report being in direct contrast to Ireland’s softly- softly
approach to social media and tech giant’s activities.
I’ve said this before. Algorithms are created to
allow users to search and find information. Therefore algorithms can be used to
search, find and remove this type of harmful material.
Listening to Lunchtime Live yesterday where acclaimed cyber psychologist and author of ‘The Cyber Effect’ Dr Mary Aiken shared here insights on Momo saying ‘anything that the garda are issuing a warning on is something that should be taken seriously’. Dr Aiken then made a very valid point:
of Blue Whale or Momo,.. is that there’s
a much bigger issue, that of general child safety – and accountability of these
social media platforms that facilitate this type of activity’.
Aiken is currently working with DCMS on a bill making it an offence to
distribute, encourage or incite harmful material and self-harm practices online,
for free or commercial purposes – introducing new legislation which will make
the social media, search and tech giants who ‘allow this content to thrive and are
actively involved in the distribution of this material’, more accountable by
law. As, she goes on to say ‘self regulation is not working’. Good luck with
pushing this through Mary!
- Install good parental controls
- Do not assume that any game or channel such as You Tube Kids is
Momo/other harmful material-free
- Look out for secretive or out of character behaviour
- Monitor what your children are doing online as much as possible.
- Tell children why they should not give out personal information or
friend anyone they don’t know, particularly while this is doing the rounds
- Talk to your children about the risks
of dare-based challenges.
- Enable privacy settings and keep them up to date.
Parents of children and teenagers who have encountered Momo or other harmful
Talk to them
about what they can come across. In an age appropriate way, help them
understand that while the world is full of good people, there are bad people
online who want to harm children and that they may make threats. The Momo
character is not real and the threats are not real. The best way to avoid this situation is to
avoid talking to strangers online – But crucially if they do find themselves in
this type of situation they should come to you.
You won’t be angry. You will help them or find someone who can.
panic. Teenagers have a pre-disposition
for risk, Momo is a talking point and thrill seeking activity and they need to
think critically about whether they want to be involved in something that could
potentially cause themselves or other’s harm. There are no productive outcomes
with horror games and they can be traumatising. Maybe it’s time to pursue more
positive and constructive online activities.
NB: News and
media outlets, including ourselves have a responsibility to ensure children and
young people are not exposed to excessive imagery and sensationalism around
topics like Momo. The image itself is
pretty scary for adults – while some teenagers may find it funny or thrilling,
it can also be terrifying for kids. We
all need to consider how we share and discuss this topic.
Take care online,
Wayne Denner is a speaker, author and expert on Online Reputation and Wellbeing. Wayne helps young people protect and improve their digital presence. Visit waynedenner.com for more information.