DOE Alerts Parents About Dangerous Social Media Challenge

February 28, 2019, 9:37 AM HST · Updated February 28, 9:37 AM
Debra Lordan · 9 Comments
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The Hawai‘i Department of Education sent a memo to parents on Feb. 27, 2019, regarding renewed concerns about a potentially dangerous social media challenge targeting young people.

This type of viral challenge attempts to influence young social media users to engage in some form of suggested activity and encourages them to post photographs or videos of the results. Some of these challenges are benign; however, one in particular has potentially been linked to suicides.

The so-called “Momo” challenge is “highly dangerous, encouraging children to disappear for 72 hours or even commit suicide,” according to a news report.

According to various reports, the Momo challenge is a form of cyberbullying prevalent on platforms such as WhatsApp and YouTube, through which users receive anonymous, threatening messages tied to pictures of Momo, a grinning figure with dark hair and bulging eyes.

Parents and guardians should be aware that anonymous threatening messages have been tied to pictures of “Momo,” an unrelated sculpture of a grinning figure with dark hair and bulging eyes created by a Japanese special effects company. PC: internet screenshot

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Momo messages allegedly compel youngsters to engage in perilous activities such as taking pills, stabbing other people and even killing themselves, according to Snopes, a source for sorting out myths and rumors on the Internet.

In the letter sent to parents and guardians, the Hawai‘i DOE complex area superintendent wrote, “According to experts, although the challenge appears to be more fear than fact, it is important for parents to talk to their children about it. Parents can ask their child whether they have seen anything online that has upset or worried them, and explain that there are often things that happen online that can be misleading or frightening and that some things are solely designed to get a lot of attention.”

The letter urges parents and guardians to review online safety and security features on their child’s devises and be proactive and “foster an atmosphere of openness and transparency about their child’s online activity.”

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The Momo Challenge has been cited as a potential link to suicides around the globe.

A 12-year-old Argentinian girl had allegedly been motivated by the “Momo Game” to hang herself from a tree in her family’s backyard. Although authorities never confirmed that the girl’s suicide was encouraged by her participation in the “game,” the victim did video her activities with her phone immediately prior to her suicide. Authorities suspected someone encouraged her to take her own life and conducted an investigation into a social media “friend.” Police have not located the person.

The deaths of two young men in India were also reportedly tied to the “Momo Game Challenge” last year, “although again no definitive link was documented,” Snopes reported.

Around the same time, the suicides of a 12-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy in Colombia were also reported as potentially being linked to participation in the challenge.

Debra Lordan
Debra Lordan has been a writer and website editor for Maui Now since December 2014.

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