Police and schools are issuing warnings to parents on social media after a popular WhatsApp challenge has resurfaced. The "Momo game" or "Momo challenge" gained international recognition last summer and was initially considered a hoax, quickly becoming a widespread meme. In August 2018, law enforcement investigated the influence of Momo on the death of a 12-year-old in Argentina, worrying parents globally to the potentially real dangers of the challenge.
When children participate in the challenge, they contact a stranger concealing themself as "Momo" using a creepy image. Momo encourages a participant to complete various tasks if they want to avoid being "cursed." Some of the tasks include self harm, which Momo asks the participant to provide photographic evidence in order to continue the game. Ultimately, the game ends with Momo telling the participant to take their own life and record it for social media.
A Florida mother said she has found clips on YouTube and YouTube Kids that gave children instructions on how to kill themselves.
Free Hess said the first time she saw such a video was back in July when another mom alerted her to it after she and her son were watching cartoon videos on YouTube Kids. Spliced in the middle of one of the videos was footage of a man in sunglasses telling children how to slit their wrists.
Hess, a pediatrician, put out a call to action to different groups to report the video to get it removed from the site. Hess said it took YouTube Kids a week to pull it down.
"We are aware that some nasty challenges (Momo challenge) are hacking into children's programmes. Challenges appear midway through Kids YouTube, Fortnight, Peppa pig to avoid detection by adults," the Northcott Community Special School in Hull, England, tweeted. "Please be vigilant with your child using IT, images are very disturbing." The Ash Field Academy in Leicester, England, also tweeted a warning for parents, and Haslingden Primary School in Rossendale, England, shared a similar message on Facebook.
A YouTube spokesperson told CBS News on Tuesday: "Our Community Guidelines prohibit harmful and dangerous challenges, including promoting the Momo challenge, and we remove this content quickly when flagged to us."
Social media apps have a history of safety issues, especially regarding children. In December 2018, WhatsApp was criticized for failing to stop the spread of child porn in chat groups. A WhatsApp spokesperson said at the time the company "has a zero-tolerance policy around child sexual abuse."
YouTube has also come under fire in recent weeks for its handling of inappropriate content targeting children. A video promoting self-harm tips disguised as a popular animated series has continued to resurface on YouTube and YouTube Kids, and several major companies pulled advertising after a blogger described "a wormhole into a soft-core pedophilia ring" on the site. While YouTube said it has taken steps to improve safety across its platforms, parents say it just isn't working.
Law enforcement say parents need to focus on the bigger picture: "Even basic open source research suggests that 'Momo' is run by hackers who are looking for personal info," PSNI Craigavon wrote on Facebook. "The danger lies with your child feeling pressured to either follow the orders of ANY app via 'challenges,' or peer pressure in chat rooms and the like ... More important is that your child knows not to give out personal info to ANYONE they don't know, that no one has the right to tell them to, or make them do ANYTHING they don't want to."
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source: https://pix11.com/2019/02/25/a-mom-found-videos-on-youtube-kids-that-gave-children-instructions-for-suicide/ & https://www.cbsnews.com/news/momo-challenge-resurfaces-police-issue-warning-to-parents/