The bogus social media challenge has gone viral around the globe. Supposedly, young children are contacted on Whatsapp and convinced to harm or kill themselves.
For many parents, this caused widespread concern, especially in the aftermath of dangerous social media challenges such as the Blue Whale challenge and eating Tide Pods.
However, the ‘Momo Challenge’, featuring a picture of a creepy, harrowed-looking lady with chicken legs, is just a global online hoax. There is limited evidence of kids actually committing suicide as a result of being contacted by the character.
How did the hysteria appear?
Last year, news reports cropped up about a 12-year-old’s suicide in Argentina, circulating around Latin America. Reports of a supposed suicide pact emerged out of Columbia a while later. Then, a few months later, Mexican authorities reported that children were being threatened by ‘El Momo’.
The story caught on in the US and was further circulated by worried parents and schools.
On Feb 26, a Twitter user going by the name of Wanda Maximoff tweeted, “Warning! Please read, this is real. There is a thing called ‘Momo’ that’s instructing kids to kill themselves,” the attached screenshot of a Facebook post reads. “INFORM EVERYONE YOU CAN.”
The Tweet was retweeted over 22,000 times before it was removed.
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian exacerbated the panic, posting on her own Instagram (that has 129 million followers) to be of caution.
“Parents please be aware and very cautious of what your child watches on YouTube and KIDS YOUTUBE. There is a thing called ‘Momo’ that’s instructing kids to kill themselves, turn stoves on while everyone is sleep and even threatening to kill the children if they tell their parents,” read one of the two posts that she posted regarding the challenge.
There have even been claims that the ‘Momo Challenge’-related material has appeared in videos featuring Peppa Pig and Fortnite aimed at children.
But you can relax- it’s a hoax
YouTube said that it had not seen content that actually promoted the challenge, and has since then demonetized videos featuring the ghastly Momo image.
UK charities have held forth that it is completely bogus.
“Currently we’re not aware of any verified evidence in this country or beyond linking Momo to suicide,” said a Samaritans spokesperson. “What’s more important is parents and people who work with children concentrate on broad online safety guidelines.”
There have been no reports of children actually ending their lives in relation to the challenge.
The image representing the Momo Challenge is actually a statue created by Japanese artist called Keisuke Aisawa.
It is called ‘Mother Bird’, based on a Japanese ghost called “ubume” – of a woman who dies during childbirth, explained Keisuke Aiso, head of Tokyo-based firm LINK FACTORY, which makes props for TV dramas. It was first shown in a Tokyo exhibit in 2016 and has since been destroyed.
So there you go- don’t believe everything you see on the Internet.