For clarity, it is important to note the “Momo Challenge” has been associated with reporting on WhatsApp. In a statement release on Wednesday, Google states the following:
“Many of you have shared your concerns with us over the past few days about the Momo Challenge–we’ve been paying close attention to these reports. After much review, we’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube. Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are clearly against our policies, the Momo challenge included. Despite press reports of this challenge surfacing, we haven’t had any recent links flagged or shared with us from YouTube that violate our Community Guidelines.
It’s important to note that we do allow creators to discuss, report, or educate people on the Momo challenge/character on YouTube. We’ve seen screenshots of videos and/or thumbnails with this character in them. To clarify, it is not against our policies to include the image of the Momo character on YouTube; that being said, this image is not allowed on the YouTube Kids app and we’re putting safeguards in place to exclude it from content on YouTube Kids.”
We want to clear something up regarding the Momo Challenge: We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube. Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies.
— YouTube (@YouTube) 27 de febrero de 2019
A new viral ‘game’ called Momo has almost managed to knock Brexit off the top of the news bulletins in the UK. Parents, teachers and children are increasingly concerned about Momo, following some reports that players are being encouraged to seriously injure themselves or others.
How does the ‘game’ work
Momo specifically targets younger children online, apparently through videos on YouTube or messages on social networks. Kids are encouraged to add an anonymous contact on the WhatsApp instant messaging platform. They are then given a range of dangerous dares to complete.
As well as instructions, players also receive threats of physical violence to themselves or their family if they do not complete the challenges set. Warnings are accompanied by images specifically intended to scare young children into playing the game to the end.
The final message received from the mysterious WhatsApp contact is an instruction for the player to kill themselves.
A reality check
Undoubtedly terrifying, UK police have been warning about the short-term shock created by Momo. They are keen to stress that although many children have been deeply upset by the game, there have been no confirmed cases of any players actually killing themselves.
Instead, police have been warning about secondary, long-term problems caused by the game. They believe that Momo is actually being run by hackers who are using the game to gather sensitive personal information – like passwords – from players. The hackers will then use this information to commit other crime, such as breaking into bank accounts or similar.
Staying safe online
Momo is just the latest in a long line of horror games targeted at children. Slenderman and Blue Whale both grabbed headlines after young players were encouraged to commit violent acts for instance.
But where previous ‘games’ were targeted at physically harming the player or their friends, Momo is using the same approach as a cover for crime. The threat to health and wealth underscores the importance of training children to use the Internet safely. Here are some talking points:
1. Protect your devices
Games like Momo can be used to trick kids into downloading malware into their phone, tablet or computer. Hackers use this malware to steal information and to gain access to the rest of your home network where they can access details like passwords and credit cards.
Installing anti-malware will keep your devices virus free – and block the bad guys from accessing personal data.
2. Don’t talk to strangers
Kids know not to talk to strangers offline, but they need to know the same principles apply online too. Explain to your children the dangers of adding a stranger to their WhatsApp account, and help them understand that doing so is not safe.
For younger children, consider “sharing” access to the device. This allows you to better control who they connect with and to block any suspicious individuals.
3. Use content filters to control access
Not everything online is suitable for children, so you must block access to the most questionable content. You can teach kids to avoid the worst stuff, but games like Momo will try and trick them into seeing unacceptable, inappropriate websites and images.
Panda Dome provides parental controls, allowing you to choose what can – and cannot – be accessed by your kids. The filters update automatically so you’re always ahead of the criminals too.
Momo is causing widespread panic today, but as word spreads about the potential dangers of the game, interest will quickly die off. Unfortunately, something equally disturbing will replace it eventually – so parents must act now to keep their kids safe online.
You can make a start by downloading a free trial of the Panda Dome security suite. Once you have regained control of unwanted WhatsApp conversations, you can then have “the talk” with kids about safe behaviour online.
Ready to learn more? Check out this article on using parental controls effectively.