Beware of Momo trap

By BK Mishra

If you thought Kiki challenge was dangerous enough, then wait till you’ve seen this eerie looking girl with bulging eyes doing rounds on WhatsApp, which has been dubbed as the Momo Whatsapp ‘suicide game’. A girl’s distorted face with protruding eyes and wide mouth appears when you’re WhatsApp-ed from a certain number and the game begins.
Remember the Blue Whale challenge that pushed teens to commit suicide through a series of instructions from a stranger over the internet? A similar challenge is apparently making its way in the online space but this time, through the Facebook-owned chat platform WhatsApp. Reports from around the globe are indicating a sculpture’s image being spread on WhatsApp along with several challenges that threaten the lives of the receivers. The challenges come in the form of extreme behaviours, just like the ones seen during the Blue Whale challenge. It’s called the Momo Challenge.
Parents have yet another reason to be worried about the growing impact of social media on the lives of their young ones. Simply put, driving someone to suicide in the name of a social media challenge has now manifested itself in the name of the Momo challenge. It has been popping up globally over the past few weeks, mostly spread on instant messaging app WhatsApp, and has already claimed its first victim. A 12-year-old girl from Argentina fell in the trap, which culminated with her being challenged to commit suicide. The anonymous senders won, the girl lost. And her family lost too, in the process. But this could just be the start of a terrifying repeat.
In Momo challenge, a disturbing picture of a sculpture is being forwarded along with several instructions for the teens to display extreme behaviour in the form of a challenge.
The sculpture has reportedly been created by a Japanese artist Midori Hayashi and neither the sculpture nor the artist has any relevance to the game. The sculpture of a ‘Mother Bird’ is on display in Tokyo’s Vanilla Gallery, along with other displays of horror art.
Some miscreants made wrong use of this image and have been trying to scare a few people. Do not entertain any such miscreant
‘Momo’ has accounts on WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube, reports say, which are connected to three numbers in Columbia, Japan and Mexico.
Alleged ‘Momo’ cases have been reported from the US, France, Germany and Mexico, among others.

Experts believe the Momo challenge to be a tool for cyber-criminals to extract personal data of the victim. It is unclear how widespread the game is and hence is not being considered a real threat directed towards the purpose of inducing suicidal tendencies among the young.
However, cyber experts still advice the young internet users as well as their parents to be on a lookout for such ‘absurd’ challenges and not fall into their trap.
Momo is connected to at least three phone numbers in Japan, Colombia and Mexico. Someone contacting these numbers is likely ‘to be met with insults, implications that this person knows your personal information and most notably disturbing images’.
Some diligence and help of cyber experts reveal that there is no such game as the Momo challenge and that only a picture is being used to steal people’s personal information.
An experiment was performed to see if the game was for real. The administrators of the WhatsApp groups from three countries — Japan, Colombia and Mexico was contacted but found the numbers are all inactive.

Children: Teenagers, you need to be more assertive

Whether it be a hoax or an actual suicide ‘game’, children and teenagers need to be assertive and stand up to peer pressure. Respect others’ choices and seek respect for yours.
If you aren’t comfortable doing something, suggest something else to do. Don’t hang out with people who might be involved in such games. If you sense your friends are in danger, alert adults.
Be honest to your parents.
Parents too have a responsibility. Regulate Social Media use and teach them not to share private details with strangers. Ensure you listen and are sympathetic to their concerns.
Help them practise saying no. Rehearse with them, if need be. Pay close attention to your children behaviour.
Momo is neither a challenge nor a game. It’s simply a hoax that should not be given any importance because that can lead to morbid curiosity.
Till now, there have been no reports of the challenge reaching India. However, digital media can spread across the globe like wildfire by just single click. Also, considering that the Blue whale reached the highest risk level in India, it is best to safeguard your kids and have an open conversation with them.

(The author can be contacted at [email protected])

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