THE Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) yesterday called on parents and guardians of children to closely monitor the kids’ internet use to prevent them from participating in the deadly online “Momo Challenge” which persuades young participants to hurt and eventually kill themselves.
“We are appealing to parents and guardians to closely monitor their children’s internet use amid reports and social media posts regarding this purported ‘suicide game’ disguised as the Momo Challenge,” said PNP-ACG director Chief Superintendent Marni C. Marcos Jr.
PNP chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde also called on parents and guardians to fully supervise the internet usage of their kids to prevent them from falling prey to fraudulent online activities including sex predators.
Marcos confirmed that the online “challenge” reportedly persuading children to hurt and eventually kill themselves in the guise of children-friendly YouTube shows, online games, and a “chat mate” has alarmed parents in different countries.
He said that the “Momo Challenge” first hit the news in July 2018 when it was noticed by a known YouTube user. Marcos said that their research showed that eventually, a 12-year-old Argentinian girl was reported to have died after being allegedly persuaded to harm herself and later take her own life by a grotesque-looking female figure through the mobile messaging application “WhatsApp.”
However, Marcos said that they have yet to find a link between the trending “suicide game” and the unlikely death of the victim – same with the reported cases of “Momo Challenge” casualties in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, and Europe.
Adding to the skepticism of some experts, law enforcement and investigating bodies, and even parents themselves is the information debunking the hype on “Momo Challenge”.
The face of the “Momo Challenge” was found to be actually of a sculpture created by Link Factory, a Japanese special effects company. Reports say that unscrupulous individual/s behind the “Momo Challenge” only used the cropped image of the “Mother Bird” (the real name of the artwork) due to its disturbingly bizarre appearance.
Also, he said that web security experts claim that the “Momo Challenge” is likely a case of “moral panic” and is being sensationalized through media reports and social media stories.
It was even compared with the popular “Blue Whale Challenge” which is a “game” reportedly consisting of a series of tasks that are initially harmless before introducing elements of self-harm and requiring the player to commit suicide at the final challenge, as well as the “Bloody Mary Challenge” wherein children would scare themselves by saying “Bloody Mary” three times in front of a mirror.
Nevertheless, the PNP-ACG called on parents and guardians to closely supervise the internet usage of their kids in the aftermath of the controversy generated by the “Momo Challenge.”
Furthermore, the National Online Safety, a group of online safety experts issued seven tips for parents, guardians, and teachers to help and protect youngsters from this purported “suicide game.”
They are the following:
1. Tell them it is not real. – Just like any urban legend or horror story, the concept can be quite frightening and distressing for young people;
2. Be present. – It’s important for you, as a parent or guardian, to be present while your children are online;
3. Talk regularly. – As well as monitoring your child’s activity, it’s important for you discuss it with them too;
4. Device settings and parental controls. – Ensure that you set up parental controls for your devices at home;
5. Peer pressure. – Trends and viral challenges can be tempting for children to take part in; no matter how dangerous or scary they seem;
6. Real or hoax. – As a parent it is natural to feel worried about certain things you see online that may be harmful to your child; and
7. Report and block. – We advise that you flag and report any material you deem to be inappropriate or harmful as soon as you come across it. You should also block the account/content to prevent your child from viewing it.
Marcos advised the public to remain vigilant amid the recurring “Momo Challenge” scare.