By Cheryl Maguire
The Momo Challenge may sound like a harmless game but it has been linked to the suicide of a 12-year-old girl in Argentina on July 22. The images on her phone indicate that she was following steps from the Momo profile that ultimately led to her tying a sheet around her neck. Authorities are investigating an 18-year-old teenager who was communicating with the victim before her death.
What is the Momo Game or Challenge?
The Momo game is being compared to The Blue Whale Challenge, which was connected to over 130 deaths in Russia this year. The game targets teens who use WhatsApp. Through the app, the user messages or adds the Momo profile. The Momo profile picture is unique and recognizable. It’s a creepy sculpture image of a woman’s head with bulging eyes resting on top of talon bird-like feet. After the user connects with Momo, they receive violent images and threatening challenges.
There is conflicting information about what the Momo profile will send to the user. There are reports that the game sets a series of objectives and challenges for the user to follow which results in the Momo profile obtaining the user’s personal information. Some people claim they received phone calls and heard people screaming on the other end. Then the user receives a series of graphic photos about ways to commit suicide. The challenges start off as harmless pranks, but escalate to a challenge of committing suicide.
The world-wide viral game originated in a Facebook group telling people to communicate with an unknown number according to the Computer Crime Investigation Unit of the State of Tabasco, Mexico. The Momo image is from an Instagram account of a sculpture created in a Japanese special effects company, which is not associated with the game.
Cyber experts claim the game is a hoax. When they investigated it, they found the three different Momo phone numbers associated with the profile were inactive. The real purpose of the game may be to steal your personal information.
What Should Parents Do?
Discuss Internet safety with your kids early and often, including how unknown users can steal their personal information. Try not to interrogate them when talking about it. Instead, have a conversation about how adding unknown phone numbers can put them at risk. Ask them if they use WhatsApp and discuss the possible dangers in connecting with the Momo profile. Continue to have regular conversations about Internet safety.
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is the mother of twins and a daughter. She has written for Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings, Parent Co., Signature Moms, Mothers Always Write and Twins Magazine. You can find her on Twitter.