We have become aware of a video that is showing up on YouTube and shared via other social media apps that encourages children to self-injure or even consider suicide. The frightening character, called MOMO, challenges children to explore ways to hurt themselves and includes threats that harm will come to the viewer or their family if they do not accept the challenge. The video is most likely targeting young adolescents but would be particularly difficult for young people who may already be struggling with issues around mental health, self-harm, or suicide.
We have taken steps to educate staff about the videos, guide them in how to respond safely and pro-actively when there are concerns that students might have seen or be talking about the ‘game’, and provided guidelines for speaking with classes where the issue has been raised. We are also exploring options for restricting access to some apps that may be particularly popular in sharing this video.
You might consider checking with your child regarding their exposure to this video and any concerns or fears they may have as a result. Below are some tips based on the approach we have taken at school, which might be helpful for your conversations with your children, should you choose.
As always, ongoing dialogue with your children about safe internet use is the best way to keep kids safe online. You can find more about internet safety and helping your children become responsible users of social media, at https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/net-safety.html.
- Ask them if they have heard about MOMO, a character in a video on the internet that pops up on sites and challenges kids to hurt themselves. Do not show the video or provide the link.
- Explain that it is a hoax (not true) and that the threats the character makes cannot hurt them, although the activities in the challenge can.
- Explain that if it pops up on their screens they have done nothing wrong, but should tell you or another trusted adult so it can be reported to the sites [On YouTube, select the “More” link below the player icon and then click ‘Report Content’]
- Say the best thing each one of us could do is to refuse to watch it or share it and not engage in any of the challenges.
- Remind your children who they can talk to if they are worried, upset, or frightened. In addition to you, school staff are there to help, and other trusted adults, they can access Kids Help Phone, which has live chat and text options. https://kidshelpphone.ca/