Parents told not to panic over Momo Challenge

Parents across the UK have been warning their kids about a viral internet challenge – which has been deemed a hoax.

The Momo Challenge features a picture of a woman’s face with bulging eyes attached to a bird’s body. The image is being circulated around social media platforms – mostly YouTube and WhatsApp – encouraging children to partake in violent dares. Most of the dares involve self-harming or harming others, with the final dare encouraging the viewer to take their own life.

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Photograph credit: Lauren Archer

A number of videos featuring Fortnite or Peppa Pig – which are popular with children – have been edited to to include the image of Momo and the violent messages.

A Scots mum found her four-year-old son with pills in his hand after being targeted by the Momo Challenge online. Brad told mum Rachel, from Fife, that he had been told to do “bad things” by the bug-eyed character including hit himself with a hammer. Rachel said her son had been traumatised after watching the video – which she believes was added into a children’s show on YouTube – forcing him to wake up screaming “Momo” in the middle of the night.

Rachel said: “Brad told me she had been telling him to do bad things – find a hammer and hit himself with it, go in the bath when there were no adults there. He had started sneaking off to the bathroom and randomly putting the taps on and we found him with a pill packet two weeks ago. This is him starting to do what they have been telling him to do”.

This isn’t the first instance of a viral challenge encouraging kids to commit suicide. The Blue Whale Challenge featured online in 2016, with the same ending as the Momo Challenge: committing suicide. A number of suicides were connected with the Blue Whale Challenge but none were confirmed to be a result of playing the game.

YouTube have insisted they have no evidence of the videos that allegedly promote the challenge. A spokesman said: “Contrary to press reports, we’ve not received any recent evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on YouTube. Content of this kind would be in violation of our policies and removed immediately”.

Police Scotland released a warning, telling parents and guardians: “We would encourage parents not to panic, but instead sit down with their children and talk about all aspects of their online world and explain the potential dangers”.

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