You may be aware of the disturbing social media challenge targeting children called the ‘Momo Challenge’. There have been many reports about this challenge in the press and on social media. Some RPS children have reported to us that they have seen the Momo Challenge appear in adds while using apps and the internet on their phones and devices. We consider it important to make you aware of this challenge and encourage you to monitor your child’s use of social media and the internet, and to discuss any concerns or worries with them.
How it works:
Children receive a message request on Whatsapp from an unknown number. A doll-like character then sends violent images and escalating dares, which include self-harming and tell them she will ‘curse them’ if they do not follow her instructions to harm others or themselves
The challenge is also reported to conceal itself within popular online games such as Fortnite and then can appear on screens in the form of a pop-up. Young children are reportedly being targeted through ‘you tube’ while watching seemingly harmless cartoons such a Peppa pig. The character is very creepy. Google trends show the number of people in the UK, searching ‘how to play the Momo challenge’ is up by more than 450 per cent. We ask you to be vigilant.
What to do next?
Tell them it’s not real: Although it may seem obvious, the National Online Safety (NOS) has stressed the importance of telling your child that the game isn’t real. Children can be easily frightened or distressed by horror stories or urban myths and this is no different. Making it clear to your child that Momo is not a real person and can’t hurt them will calm them down. It’s also important to tell your child not to go searching for the Momo content.
Be present: The online safety advice organisation says it’s vital to be present while your children are online. As part of the game, each task becomes progressively worse, so it’s important to look out for and recognise any behavioural changes your child may show. This will give you a much better understanding of what they are seeing and doing so you can talk and support them.
Talk regularly with your child: Make sure you talk about the game openly with your child. This will give you a better understanding of their online behaviours and will help your child feel comfortable in coming forward with any concerns they have. It’s important to be able to have honest and frequent conversations with your child about the online world.
Device settings and parental controls: Make sure you set up parental controls on all your devices at home. This will ensure that your child won’t be able to view certain types of content and will enable you to monitor their activity. The NOS says it’s important to be aware of your device and account settings to ensure their safety. It refers to an example on YouTube where you can turn off ‘suggested auto-play’ on videos to prevent your children from viewing things they haven’t directly chosen to watch.
Peer pressure: The NOS says even scary and distressing viral challenges can be tempting to children. It advises parents to talk to their children about resisting peer pressure and not doing anything they don’t feel comfortable with. Tell your child to talk to you or another trusted adult if they feel unsure about something online.
Real or hoax? Not everything online is true, and the NOS says it’s important to check the validity of sources and be mindful of what you share as it could cause more worry and harm.
Report and block: While parental controls are often helpful, they can’t always be relied on to block potentially harmful content. The NOS advise that you flag and report any content you deem to be distressing, inappropriate or harmful as soon as you see it. It’s also important to block the account to prevent your child from coming across it. The organisation recommends encouraging your child to record or screenshot any material they feel could be distressing and providing this to the appropriate channels to investigate.