A Scottish woman is warning parents around the world after her eight-year-old was targeted by a cyberbullying scheme that may encourage kids to hurt themselves. Lyn Dixon’s son was contacted on WhatsApp by a stranger whose name is listed as Momo and whose avatar is taken from a disturbing sculpture by Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa.
After establishing contact, “Momo” encourages kids to complete a serious of tasks that start as relatively innocent — watching a scary movie, say — but get increasingly dangerous and bizarre. The tasks work their way up to encouraging kids to self-harm, which is what Dixon says happened to her boy.
“He showed me an image of the face on my phone and said that she had told him to go into the kitchen drawer and take out a knife and put it into his neck,” she told The Daily Mail. Dixon also said that her son is now afraid of the dark and to sleep in his own bed because of the game.
The Momo challenge is a nightmare scenario for parents: a shadowy stranger reaching out, psychologically manipulating kids, and pushing them into suicide. What’s less clear is how widespread the phenomenon actually is.
While the Momo challenge has been linked to deaths around the world, there does not appear to be definitive proof of a child committing suicide because Momo asked him or her to. As Benjamin Radford, a folklorist with the Committee for Skeptic Inquiry, told Rolling Stone, “there’s no real truth to [games like the Momo Challenge] or evidence that it’s a real threat.” Radford pointed to older parents’ discomfort with technology and fear of what young people do with it as other contributing factors.
**Suicide game targeting our kids**Some information on the latest "Momo" game which is doing the rounds at the moment…
Police in Northern Ireland wrote on Facebook that “basic open source research suggests that ‘Momo’ is run by hackers who are looking for personal info.”
But even if the Momo challenge hasn’t left an international body count in its wake, there is a lesson here: the Internet can be a dangerous place for kids. Parents, using whatever tools they can, have a responsibility to make sure their kids are safe when they’re online.