Miss Mole answers your questions about the alleged online “dare game”.
In school, we overheard some children discussing “Momo” and egging eachother on to look it up on Google in class. We also found that children as young as 6 knew what it was, and they were pretty frightened. We looked it up, and actually, we think you should know about it, but it’s not as alarming as it looks.
If your child is mentioning “Momo” or the “Momo Challenge”, this is what you need to know…
What is it?
It is apparently a “game” based on WhatsApp that will send people messages telling them to do things “else something bad will happen” to their families/ themselves.
People supposedly text a special number and the challenges ensue. Very much, like “Blue Whale” a couple of years back. Both “games” are linked to harmful and manipulative challenges, the most extreme of which being suicide.
It even has a “frightening” profile picture associated with it – a scary(ish) looking woman with sunken eyes.
The picture itself is no big deal, just a little strange looking, but this is how younger children are hearing about Momo. Children are Googling, the “weird” Momo face and they seem to then enjoy scaring themselves and their friends by looking it up. It doesn’t mean they will start playing the Momo game.
How do we stop children getting hurt?
Before you become too worried about this one affecting your child, let me explain how this and other such “Games” manage to cause so much damage and fear, in the hopes that if you can see through it, you can teach your children to as well.
Interestingly, a lot of the hype around Momo is based on hearsay and rumour, and the scary picture. Some believe it is just an internet hoax.
The WhatsApp part of it may not even exist in the form of one person sending the texts. This does not mean it can’t cause actual harm though, as nasty people may be taking it upon themselves to “become” the person, to exploit the vulnerable.
That is where the harm is, in the manipulation and exploitation of the vulnerable.
You will hear more about the phenomenon online in the form of people vlogging and blogging about it, and how frightening the face is, and how dangerous the “game” is, rather than anyone you know receiving a Momo text.
Where is the danger?
The danger is not with the game as such, it’s with the children believing they have to participate in any online dare game, becoming overly fearful, doing what they are told to, and by children and teenagers gossiping about the terrible things that someone had to do (which may or may not be real).
Because it has hit “legendary” status, and children/ teens/ worried parents are all talking about it, and sharing their awareness of its dangerous nature on Social Media, it is then advertising that it should be something to be feared, and it becomes very real to them.
By being scared of it, you are giving the legend of the Momo Challenge power with your children. Someone will start to pretend to be Momo for a “joke”.
How to approach it with your children
Do you remember when you were at school, before you had mobiles, or computers at home? Once in a blue moon you used to get Chainmail letters? Some kid would pass you a handwritten note that would say something like “If you don’t copy this letter word for word and give it to 12 other people, then something horrible will happen to your family”?
As a child, I believed it. So did everyone else. We were afraid when we first got them. If our teacher hadn’t intercepted one of the letters, we would have probably never had chance to speak about what it was really about – bullying.
Our teachers reminded us that it was:
Not real, and
Had no power, and
The person sending it wasn’t being very nice, and
If we sent them we weren’t being very nice either.
We were told to stop being fearful of it,
That we needed to report the people, and
Do not spread the mail.
Imagine if your mum had said to you, “yes, it is frightening and it is dangerous, it could really hurt you, stay away”… you’d be terrified… and a little curious perhaps?
Imagine that it wasn’t a letter, but something that got delivered in private that no one could see or intercept. That’s what the children are contending with.
I can only advise you to deal with this in a similar way to chainmail. No nonsense, calm and supportive:
If your child is Googling the image, talk to them about why they are looking for it. Be curious, kind and calm.
Ask them not to share it with younger children who may find it extremely frightening.
If they become aware that there is a texting dare game associated with it, you will need to have an open and honest conversation about how it can be dangerous, without scaring them.
Don’t make it specific about this latest game, but make it easier for them to spot by explaining that all of these dare games are severe form of Cyberbullying, and that online bullies are trying to take advantage of vulnerable people.
Tell them how being scared of it, and spreading fearful gossip about it increases the power of the game. It will also increase the chance that someone will believe in it, and do the things they are told to because they are vulnerable, or may not have sensible parents helping them through it.
Tell them how it is illegal for someone to send a person a text trying to make them hurt themselves.
Make sure they know they can come to you if they are worried, and remind them how to block and report text numbers that are abusive, threatening and manipulative.
Encourage them to support their friends with speaking to trusted adults about it, and not to spread the rumours.
What if your child gets a text from Momo?
Momo texts are very rare, and are not really much of a thing in the UK yet. But, it could happen as the phenomenon gains momentum over here.
Consider the following:
Momo isn’t a real person/ creature. Momo doesn’t exist. The text is from a person who is harassing and blackmailing your child. Harassment and blackmail are illegal.
Ask your child to save the evidence, and the number, and report them to the police. Tell them not to respond, at all. Then block the number.
Speak to your child’s school to let them know it happened, so that they can nip it in the bud if it is within the school.
Find out if your child has contact with older children who may have introduced them to internet searches about Momo or other games.
Please also remember that WhatsApp has an age rating of 16. It is a known platform where bullying takes place regularly, hence one reason for the age rating.
If your child is younger than 16, consider whether they are mature enough to handle receiving private texts from people they may not know, and also what to do if a friendship group starts bullying them on the group chat. This can be so painful for a child to handle.
Teach them about not sharing their personal details and asking permission from others before they share someone else’s phone number.
If you would like more information on this latest phenomenon, I would recommend reading the NME blog about it, which is very level-headed. Warning though, the first thing that comes up is the Momo picture!! :