'Malicious Suicide Game', Momo Challenge, 'Targets Kids'

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Police in Northern Ireland and National Online Safety have issued warnings to parents regarding the disturbing and potentially dangerous Momo Challenge that has resurfaced in social media apps, including WhatsApp and YouTube Kids.

According to a report from The Daily Mirror, hackers have spliced images of Momo into children’s videos, including Peppa Pig and Fortnite. The images share a number for users to text to connect with Momo on WhatsApp, at which point the hackers engage with users asking them to perform seemingly meaningless tasks. The requests eventually become quite eerie, though.

“Momo is a sinister ‘challenge’ that has been around for some time. It has recently resurfaced and once again has come to the attention of schools and children across the country. Dubbed the ‘suicide killer game,’ Momo has been heavily linked with apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and most recently (and most worryingly)...YouTube Kids,” National Online Safety warned.

The frightening figure is that of a doll with bulging eyes and powder-white skin who reportedly shares disturbing graphic images both depicting violence and asking recipients to partake in dangerous challenges.

According to PediMom, a parenting blog, when the challenge surfaced several months ago, a mother reported that her child was watching a YouTube Kids video when “four minutes and forty-five seconds into the video. The man quickly walked in, held his arm out, and tracing his forearm, said, 'Kids, remember, cut this way for attention, and this way for results,' and then quickly walked off.”

Resoundingly, the message from police is that parents assure their children that this challenge – and others similar to it – are not real. Hackers are believed to be using Momo as a way to harvest information from participants.

A spokesperson for the NSPCC in Northern Ireland told the BBC, "The constantly evolving digital world means a steady influx of new apps and games and can be hard for parents to keep track of. That's why it's important for parents to talk regularly with children about these apps and games and the potential risks they can be exposed to.”

The NSPCC also issued a warning on its Facebook page advising parents to monitor their children's online time and supervise them when playing games or watching videos. NSPCC noted, "This game conceals itself within other harmless looking games played by our kids! There has also been reports of parts of the game being viewable on YouTube...when downloaded tells your child to communicate with them via WhatsApp and a number of other widely used apps. "Momo" then tells your child to self harm or she will put a curse on them!"

UPDATE, 28/02/2019:

In an update to this story, as reported by The Guardian, Samaritans and the NSPCC have dismissed claims that the Momo challenge has caused any harm and stated there is no actual evidence to suggest otherwise, suggesting it is a hoax.

In fact, “the ensuing media hysteria could now be putting vulnerable people at risk by encouraging them to think of self-harm,” The Guardian’s report wrote.

A Samaritans spokesperson told The Guardian: “These stories being highly publicised and starting a panic means vulnerable people get to know about it and that creates a risk.

“Currently we’re not aware of any verified evidence in this country or beyond linking Momo to suicide,” added the Samaritans spokesperson. “What’s more important is parents and people who work with children concentrate on broad online safety guidelines.”

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