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Parental advice for the "MOMO" Challenge

By Anthonie Malley

Advice for parents from our Child Protection Officer

As you have probably seen there has been huge publicity surrounding the “MOMO Challenge” with its disturbing and frightening image popping up all over the internet.

What is the Momo Challenge?

Well the Momo challenge is the latest in a series of online challenges supposedly targeting children and young people via social media, encouraging them to add a “Curse Contact” (often via messaging services such as WhatsApp or gaming services).

The Momo character is a disfigured face with bulging eyes, attached to a bird’s body. It was originally designed as a prop named ‘Mother Bird’ three years ago for an art exhibition in Japan. Its scary stretched features make for a disturbing image that could easily upset or worry a younger child.

It is suggested that The Momo character makes contact on WhatsApp and online gaming platforms then the children/young people are supposedly encouraged to save the character as a contact. The children are asked to carry out challenges as well as being told not to tell other members of their family.

Of course, the evidence for this behaviour happening is limited — leading charities say there have been no reports of anybody receiving messages or harming themselves as a result and what seems to be happening is that the image is spreading because people are using the image in their profiles and parents/carers sharing warnings via the social media platforms perpetuating the myth.

There are reports on the BBC news network suggesting that the whole concept of the Momo Challenge is fake news but I know that this doesn’t reduce your worry.

The good thing that could come out of this potential online urban myth is the point of keeping your child safe while online.

Children are hearing about the challenge through numerous sources online, the coverage that is happening in the news and on social media which is also leading to old fashioned playground curiosity. It’s important to remember that the hype around these crazes often leads children to investigate for themselves even if they haven’t had direct contact.

There are lots of reasons for children to be drawn towards these challenges even ones that subsequently turn out to be nothing more than urban myth. The drama can be enticing especially when a popular Influencer or gamer is talking about it online.

With all this media attention there is no doubt that the Momo phenomenon has reached the attention of your child, so here is some advice that might help if and when your child brings it up in conversation.

  1. Although the Momo challenge appears to be more fear than fact, it’s important that you talk to your children about it. The best way to start is to ask a general question about whether they have seen anything online that upset or worried them. Explain that there are often things that happen online that can be misleading or frightening and that some things are designed to get a lot of attention.
  2. You need to follow your child’s lead — introducing the idea of the Momo challenge to a child who isn’t familiar with it might lead them to investigate. On the other hand, avoiding mentioning it won’t provide a chance for a good discussion. Take your child’s lead and whatever you decide about overtly talking about Momo, reinforce key safety messages such as never accepting friend requests from strangers, and never provide personal information online (address, school, siblings’ names etc.). And never feeling pressurised into doing any online that doesn’t feel right!
  3. Remember that curiosity is a natural part of growing up so please don’t blame them for being drawn to this sort of digital craze.
  4. Try to listen, keep calm and help them to recognise that however tempting these things may be to explore, it’s never sensible to be drawn in.
  5. Make sure you discuss online safety regularly, reinforcing that they shouldn’t accept friend requests or try to contact strangers via social media platforms or messaging apps. Ensure their privacy settings are updated, disable location sharing, and most importantly encourage them to talk to a trusted adult if they are troubled by anything they see online.
  6. As parents of younger children may also want to install YouTube Kids, a more controlled version of YouTube intended for families, for better control of what young children may come across online.

I hope this has helped a little for those out there who are concerned. This could be a well-orchestrated urban myth but if you would like more information please check out the following websites that can give advice on both online security and mental health awareness.

CEOP Website
Parentzone
Get Safe Online
Childline
Youngminds

Thanks

Loretta Mooney
Safeguarding Officer
Hamilton Rugby Club
lorettamooney@hamiltonrugbyclub.co.uk

Updated 19:35 - 5 Mar 2019 by Anthonie Malley

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