Parents warn about potentially deadly 'Momo Challenge' online

Posted at 5:35 AM, Feb 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-27 18:26:54-05

Parents are warning about the latest trend on social media and online that could direct your kid to take their own life. It’s called the Momo Challenge.

This week, many parents are learning about it for the first time, despite reports of it since summer 2018. Part of the reason why: the game instructs kids if they tell their parents about it, harm could be inflicted on them or their families.

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Jessica Edwards first heard about the Momo Challenge Tuesday morning from her sister.

“She asked my niece about it, and my niece just started crying and ran into my sister’s arms. And that broke me,” Jessica said.

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Originally a Japanese statue, Momo has bulging eyes, a chilling smile and jet-black hair on a bird’s body.

The Momo Challenge is shared on social media, like Facebook, their free messaging app WhatsApp, or on YouTube.

According to Forbes, searching for a special phone number online and texting or sending a WhatsApp message can reportedly "trigger" contact. The challenge is to meet Momo, and to do that, one must follow a series of instructions, which can include harming yourself or others.

“When my friends or my family ask kids about it, they immediately were like, ‘How do you know about it?' and then ran to them and cried,’” Jessica said.

WPTV asked Dr. Raphi Wald, a psychologist, how to talk about the implications of the Momo Challenge with children.

“The way you want to have it, is talking about how there are people out there in the world who might try to convince you to do bad things...might try to convince you to do things that you don’t want to do,” Dr. Wald said.

WPTV technology expert Alan Crowetz says parents should learn the texting anonyms and download software that can track kids' online activity. Also, make sure you can see their screen while they are on a computer or device.

He adds, teach your kids like you would about how to cross a street safely.

“How many people watching this have sat down and had the talk with their children about what they’re doing online, who they’re communicating with, what they’re sharing?” Crowetz asked.

The Momo Challenge has been linked to the death of a girl in Argentina, but none here in the United States.

When asked about the challenge being shared on their platforms, Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube have said that content that promotes harm is against community standards and taken down.

YouTube’s full statement: “Our Community Guidelines prohibit harmful and dangerous challenges, including promoting the Momo Challenge, and we remove this content quickly when flagged to us.”

YouTube also said they have not had any links sent to them that violate their standards by showing the Momo Challenge.

Read the Facebook/WhatsApp’s full statement:

We care about the safety of our community and want to provide assistance for people in distress. As outlined in our Community Standards, we don't allow the promotion of self-injury or suicide and will remove it when reported to us. We also provide people who have expressed suicidal thoughts, and people who want to reach out to a friend who may be struggling, with a number of support options and resources. These global tools and resources were developed with the help of over 70 mental health partners around the world and we’re continuously improving them to build a safer and more supportive community on Facebook.