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'Momo': what is it and should we be worried?
The latest internet trend, reportedly linked to child suicides and self-harm, has been debunked as a hoax, but pupils and parents are still concerned. Find out where it came from and what you should do next.
- What's Momo?
- What you can do as a school
'Momo' is an image of a scary, doll-like puppet. It's been reported that:
- Anonymous individuals are adding children and young people on Facebook and WhatsApp (an instant messaging service), using the image of Momo as an avatar
- The user then encourages young people to do 'challenges', some of which can be dangerous or frightening, and tells them not to tell other members of their family what's happening
- The image has apparently also been spliced into YouTube videos, such as those about Peppa Pig or Mickey Mouse
It's a hoax
At the moment there's only anecdotal evidence, and no reports from official sources that the 'Momo challenge' has led to children harming themselves.
- Police haven't reported any instances of children harming themselves due to the 'Momo challenge'
- Samaritans said it was 'not aware of any verified evidence in this country or beyond' that it's linked to self-harm
- A YouTube spokesperson also told the Guardian that it 'had not received any evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on YouTube'
The ensuing media coverage may, however, be harmful and frightening to young people.
Where did it come from?
The image itself is a sculpture that originally featured in a Japanese gallery, and has nothing to do with the current 'Momo challenge'.
The 'Momo challenge' originally gained attention in July last year, and resurfaced this month when a Facebook post from a concerned parent went viral (it was shared thousands of times). It's since been covered by several news outlets.
What you can do as a school
- Don't panic. The 'Momo challenge' itself is unlikely to pose an immediate risk to pupils' health, but...
- Designated safeguarding leads (DSLs) should monitor the behaviour of pupils who they feel may be particularly affected by suggestions of self-harm or suicide
- Only notify parents or share information about Momo with pupils as and when needed. Be careful not to scaremonger or peak interest in the issue further by proactively sharing the image or story with pupils or parents
- Be aware that the image, and surrounding media coverage, might still be frightening to children. Report directly to the social media platform itself if you see anything to do with Momo, and don't forward it on anywhere
- Use this opportunity to remind parents and pupils about online safety. Individuals or groups may jump on the bandwagon and create their own versions of the 'Momo challenge' as pranks. Remind pupils to speak to a trusted adult if they see anything unsettling online
- Share our more general online safety resources with parents, including a YouTube factsheet which helps them keep their children safe online
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