The Momo suicide challenge is the most talked about viral scare of 2019 so far. It all started when three unnamed teenagers were rumoured to have died last year because of an internet challenge known as “Momo”. However, none of the local authorities confirmed any links between the deaths and the so-called Momo challenge. The challenge still caused mass hysteria, and now the irony is that parents and adults online are scaring each other even more, by spreading news of the challenge, when it reportedly isn’t even real.
The tabloids jumped on the bandwagon to spread the fear, a Daily Mail headline read: “Fears Momo ‘suicide game’ has spread to Britain after seven-year-old boy tells his school friends doll-like creature would kill them in their sleep”, and The Sun called the challenge “deadly” and “chilling”. But the reports of the challenge happening are all anonymous submissions to Facebook pages, with no real evidence or names.
Here’s is everything you need to know about the viral Momo suicide challenge, and whether or not it is real, or just a hoax.
What is the Momo suicide challenge?
Reports say the Momo suicide challenge is where children are being encouraged to self harm and take their own lives after receiving messages on WhatsApp. The messages are from Momo, who’s picture is creepy dark haired woman, with bulging eyes and a stretched smile.
There have also been stories circulating of the challenge spreading to YouTube, with the threatening messages appearing in videos for Peppa Pig and Fortnite, targeting children.
Children are allegedly forced to carry out dangerous acts, including attempting suicide, as the “Momo” named character threatens violence against them if they don’t complete the challenge.
News of the challenge first broke in July 2018, when a 12-year-old girl in Argentina was rumoured to have died by suicide because of threatening messages, however no authorities actually linked her death to the challenge – only the press did. It spread to the UK when a post was allegedly put in a local Facebook page by a mum saying her three children cried after being told Momo was going to kill them in their beds.
Experts say the Momo suicide challenge is a malicious hoax, and isn’t even happening
Fact checking website Snopes has said the whole challenge is a hoax, and it isn’t even happening – there are no messages or videos containing the character. However, the fake news articles and mass hysteria is probably scaring children and adults just as much, with just the idea of the violence being threatened against them. On the site, David Mikkelson, wrote: “The subject has generated rumours that in themselves can be cause for concern among children.”
The Samaritans and the NSPCC have also dismissed claims, saying while there is no evidence that the Momo challenge has initially caused any harm itself, the ensuing media hysteria could now be putting vulnerable people at risk by encouraging them to think of self-harm.
A spokesperson for The Samaritans said: “These stories being highly publicised and starting a panic means vulnerable people get to know about it and that creates a risk.
“Currently we’re not aware of any verified evidence in this country or beyond linking Momo to suicide.”
The UK Safer Internet Centre called it all “fake news”, and YouTube said it has seen no evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on its platform. Kat Tremlett, harmful content manager at the UK Safer Internet Centre, said: “It’s a myth that is perpetuated into being some kind of reality.”
According to The Guardian, the NSPCC said there is no confirmed evidence that the phenomenon is actually posing a threat to British children and said they have received more phone calls about it from members of the media than concerned parents.
There’s actually no evidence that the Momo suicide challenge is real
The story that broke the news in the UK was just an anonymous post on a Facebook page, there is no real evidence that the story even happened. If you look at any supposed stories of the Momo suicide challenge happening to people in real life, there are often no names linked to the stories, and no authorities linking incidents to the challenge.
Reports say police in Northern Ireland have said all Momo related allegations should be “taken with a pinch of salt”, and whilst it is a good thing to remain vigilant of cyber scares and cyberbullying, a lot of cases are just online urban legends.
The character is apparently a sculpture in Japan