Police in Massachusetts are warning parents about a sinister internet game called the “Momo challenge," which they say is daring teens to commit suicide.
Tech experts and law enforcement agencies have issued warnings in the past about the game, in which the user encourages others to harm themselves in online messages.
If they do not comply, they are apparently threatened and intimidated with a particular image, created by Midori Hayash, a Japanese artist with no link to the game, The Sun reported.
YouTube announced Wednesday the company has found no recent videos promoting it.
Kristen Donahue says her two sons were exposed to the challenge video on YouTube, and says she has strict parental controls on her device.
Somehow, however, the terrifying video came through, and her kids never told her about it.
"So I was just scrolling through Facebook last night right before they were going to bed, and they yelled out, 'That’s Momo!'" Donahue said. "And im like 'Oh my gosh, like how do you know who that is?'"
Dr. Blaise Aguirre said the challenge is the latest danger to children on social media.
"With a lot of these challenges, like Momo, like the Blue Whale challenge, you would get rewarded for increasingly dangerous and self destructing behavior," Aguirre said.
Aguirre works with suicidal teens at McLean Hospital, and says videos like these can leave an impact on younger kids.
"For younger children, what they see is reality," Aguirre said. "They don’t know that that’s not true."
Donahue has already seen the impact on her son, who's now afraid to be alone.
"Now I'm thinking that what he saw scared him so bad that he now doesn’t want to sleep alone," Donahue said."
Aguirre says parents should try to role play with their kids to teach them what they should do if they see something scary online, especially when a video tells them to not tell their parents.
However, according to Snopes, there have not been any verified cases of anyone actually being harmed because of the game. Snopes says the challenge is just hype and hoax than reality.
Tech expert Dave Hatter told WXIX the game is believed to have originated from Facebook, but has crossed over into WhatsApp, an online messaging app that has millions of users around the world.
“I think it’s a legitimate thing to be concerned about,” Hatter told WXIX. “As a parent, I find it disturbing. I have a 10-year-old, and I will definitely be having a conversation with him about this.”
The best thing parents can do is to educate themselves about it and talk to their children.
Most of all, Hatter said parents should monitor their child’s messaging use, know who they are talking to and what they are viewing online.
Cox Media Group