The Momo challenge and the Blue Whale challenge are allegedly two of the most widespread and deadly internet challenges. Both challenges usually involve a child or teenager being encouraged to engage in self-harm behaviours that ultimately end with the victim taking their own life. This destructive behaviour and suicide can be very traumatising for the family, friends and communities of the victim.
Recently, the Momo challenge is thought to be circulating on YouTube, embedded in innocently seeming videos, like Peppa pig. The Momo image shows a sculpture of a woman’s face with bulging eyes and a beak like mouth. Once contact is made on WhatsApp, the perpetrator sends escalating disturbing messages. So it is important that you do not make contact.
More importantly, if you receive disturbing messages or are being encouraged to engage in self-harm behaviours then Stop. Do not listen to the person. Just block them or walk away and get help by telling an adult, like parents or a teacher.
YouTube’s help center Suicide and self injury page states “Content that promotes self-harm or is intended to shock or disgust users is not allowed on YouTube. We do allow users to post content discussing their experiences with depression, self-harm, or other mental health issues.”
YouTube has to carefully balance the freedom of speech and expression with safety and security. As such, a strike system was implemented to enforce their community guidelines. In addition, there are parental controls available. However, while parental controls should work as expected, given the vast amounts of video content and the insidious ways this type of content disguises itself; it presents a challenge even for one of the most powerful companies in the world, Google, owner of YouTube. So some content that violate their terms and guidelines do not get blocked. Therefore, it is important to remember, depending on your kids’ age and family values, to provide the appropriate level of parental guidance or supervision.
Given that most of the challenges spread on popular social media platforms, it is vital both parents, teachers and children be educated and informed of safe internet practices. While some believe the challenges to be hoaxes, others believe otherwise. Regardless, it underscores the important need for educating everyone, particularly children, about the dangers online, how to use the internet safely and know when and how to get help. After all, responsible parenting and frequent conversation with kids is still the best approach.
The following suggestions can help:
- Do not reply. Do not send any messages to the WhatsApp number or respond to the number.
- Talk to an adult. Let someone know what happened, such as, parents/ teachers.
- Flag inappropriate videos. This will alert YouTube staff who can review the content, liaise with the creator and can remove the video if required. Read more here.
- Configure parental controls. Read more about YouTube Parental Controls here.
- Create a playlist of videos you’ve watched before and know are safe. Learn to create playlist here.