Sick Momo Challenge: What Parents Need to Know
By Mary Bassett
There is a new dangerous and creepy challenge spreading across social media. The “Momo Challenge”, or the “Momo Suicide Challenge”, encourages kids to hurt others, themselves, and eventually to take their own lives.
The challenge has allegedly been the linked to the death of a 12-year-old girl in Argentina (ANI, 2018). It was reported that she was communicating with the Momo social media account right before she filmed her suicide.
What is the Momo challenge?
Momo is social media account that can be found on Facebook, YouTube and Whatsapp. When a person interacts with the account, they begin to receive pictures of Momo, a terrifying image of a bug-eyed toothless woman. Momo responds almost immediately with threatening messages and violent images to the user. “She” says that she knows personal things about the user and uses fear and threats to challenge the user.
Momo starts with simple challenges like waking up at odd hours of the night or overcoming a fear; then the challenges take on a very sinister turn, such as asking you to post photos or videos of cutting your arms or legs, jumping off of a roof, or other dangerous and risky activities.
As the challenges intensify, the last thing Momo pressures you to do is to commit suicide. If the user fails to accept or pass any of the challenges, Momo sends even more threatening and violent images and texts until the user is coerced into doing the challenge. If none of these pressuring tactics work, Momo threatens to visit you in person, or while you’re sleeping and curse you. This can be terrifying to young kids and teens. Others have reported that when they called Momo for a challenge, they heard screams in the background or other creepy noises (Foster, 2018).
Why are kids choosing to do this Challenge?
There are many reasons; first and foremost the Momo challenge preys on the vulnerability of our kids. The kids most at risk are those who suffer from depression, anxiety and low self esteem. They may be targeted by other kids to interact with the Momo account as a form of cyberbullying and they do not possess the coping skills to deal with the pressure–both from the challenges and from the bullies.
This challenge is especially dangerous because of the immaturity of children and teens; their brains are still actively developing and going through immense changes. They are much more susceptible to peer pressure and feel an intense desire to keep up with their peers or prove themselves. Teenagers are often curious and can feel as if they are unstoppable; they will engage in risky behavior for attention, to gain popularity, and just for the “thrill of it”.
What can you do?
Talk to your kids about the Momo Challenge. Ask them if they know what it is. Have they heard of it? Have they tried it? If they don’t know about it, share the dangers associated with the challenge. Discuss a plan that includes what they can do if they receive a message with the Momo Challenge.
Check your child’s phone/ Ipod/computer regularly. The Momo challenge is not the first challenge to encourage kids to participate in dangerous activities (the Slenderman and the Bluewhale challenge are similar challenges that were popular several years ago), and it will not be the last. If your child or teen is engaging in the Momo Challenge, or any other similar challenge, they will probably not volunteer that information to you. Remember you are your child’s greatest protector and you have every right to know the apps your child is using and have every right to check their electronic devices.
Take social media seriously, do not downplay its power in our kids lives. Social media can be a means of building friendships and connecting but it is also where most of our kids are bullied, lose confidence, feel isolated, and are exposed to porn and other unhealthy media. Even if they aren’t sure what the Momo Challenge is, they may come upon this in the future, or other bizarre or dangerous “challenges.” Educating our kids will empower them to stay away from challenges such as this, and even encourage them to help their friends.
Keep your relationship with your kids strong and solid. Spend time with them daily, allow them to talk with you about their interests, their friends and their fears. Keep the flow of communication open and consistent. Make sure they know and feel how much you love them.
Have a social media contract with your kids! If your child is on social media, they need guidance and accountability. Knowing what is appropriate to share, what photos to post, and how to respond to other’s social media postings takes practice–and parents are the right people to set an example and teach their kids. Check out our free, downloadable ebook: Social Media and Teens: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Kids Safe Online. It includes a social media contract at the end!
Need help talking to your kids about bullying? Read Giving a Voice to Bullying Victims. or 5 Ways to Become a More Media-Savvy Parent so you can know what to say when the next social media challenge comes.
Mary Bassett currently resides in Washington. She recently graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University of Idaho. She is currently an intern writer for the non-profit organization, Educate Empower Kids. She hopes to one day work as a Family Life Educator. She is passionate about educating families how important love is in the home.
ANI. (2018, August 09). What is Momo challenge? – Times of India ►. Retrieved August 13, 2018, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/what-is-momo-challenge/articleshow/65318768.cms.
Bergland, C. (2013, December 19). Why Is the Teen Brain So Vulnerable? Retrieved August 13, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201312/why-is-the-teen-brain-so-vulnerable.
Foster, A. (2018, August 11). Story behind this creepy photo. Retrieved August 13, 2018, from https://www.news.com.au/technology/online/social/where-the-creepy-image-for-the-momo-challenge-came-from/news-story/535560edbd2ad95656216d626030fa29.
Inside Edition. (2018, August 07). What You Need to Know About the ‘Momo Challenge’. Retrieved August 13, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=71&v=Jb3upXBzedc.
N. (n.d.). Warning to local parents about “Momo Suicide Challenge”. Retrieved from https://newschannel20.com/news/local/warning-to-local-parents-about-momo-suicide-challenge
Shaikh, M. (2018, August 6). Teen loses life as violent WhatsApp game Momo challenge goes viral. Retrieved August 13, 2018, from https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/teen-loses-life-as-violent-whatsapp-game-momo-challenge-goes-viral-1306646-2018-08-06.