The Latest Weapon of Online Child Abuse – The Momo Challenge

The Latest Weapon of Online Child Abuse – The Momo Challenge

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Online Child Abuse Cyber bullying Momo Challenge

Did you receive a WhatsApp invitation from an unknown profile? And does the profile depict an image with scary features and big bulging eyes? Beware! You or your child may be the next victims of the deadly “Momo Challenge” circulated on WhatsApp. This new form of online child abuse drives children to perform deadly tasks just like the former ‘Blue Whale Challenge’.

Think Momo Challenge and the mind immediately conjures up the half-woman-half-bird picture with a chilling smile. Wish the challenge was as naïve as its name! Parents for once would not have abstained from letting their wards gorge on momos rather than sacrifice their lives at the hands of a sinister administrator.

Are you a parent worried about the safety of your child online? Here is all that you need to know about this new form of online child abuse. Also, some handy tips to protect children from Momo Challenge.

What is the Momo Challenge?

Remember the Blue Whale Challenge that claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent teens and pre-teens across the globe?

The Momo Challenge is another grotesque reminder of the suicidal online game – Blue Whale Challenge. It is a similar game circulated on WhatsApp that has kept the police on their toes. It is the latest weapon of cyber bullying and online child abuse with the potential to drive children to the verge of suicide.

Who is Momo?

Momo is an anonymous profile on WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube. The profile is depicted with a terrifying half-woman-half-bird face. Link Factory has identified the image as an artwork called ‘Mother Bird’ created by Japanese artist Midori Hayashi. Though the artist or the creation has no connections to this deadly cyber bullying challenge, it is now the face of the Momo Challenge.

Generally, children who post about death or suicide on their social media profiles receive an invitation for the challenge. They are then dared by the character called Momo to be a part of the challenge.

What is the Challenge All About?

Familiar with the sinister Blue Whale Challenge?

The perils of the Momo Challenge are similar. The dominant administrator (Momo) first establishes a communication with the victim. It then sends the victim a series of challenges. The challenges are usually some form of self-harm which they must record on their phone.

The player needs to complete all challenges before finally meeting the ‘Momo’. According to past incidents, most of these tasks involve ghastly acts and ultimately must end in suicide. The administrator threatens the players with violent images if they refuse to comply with the rules.

Protect Children from Momo Challenge

A recent survey has revealed that the National Child Helpline of India received 187 complaints of online abuse in 2017. Out of these, 39 calls involved children in a deadly challenge posed by a dominant administrator. All 39 calls revealed some link with the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’.

Due to their limited experience and lack of judgment, children across the globe are vulnerable to cyber bullying. Online child abuse has spread like a wildfire due to the widespread penetration of the Internet and the early exposure of children to smartphones, tablets and other hand-held gadgets.

According to a study conducted by Intel Security in 2015, 81% of children in India in the age group 8-16 years are active on social media. Out of these, nearly 22% have faced online abuse.

Preventive Measures by Law Enforcement Agencies and Cyber Crime Cells to Protect Children from Momo Challenge

The state of West Bengal is battling the terror of the Momo Challenge that has allegedly caused 3 children to commit suicide. Following this, the West Bengal CID has issued a public notice to protect children from Momo Challenge. It urges people to contact the police or the cyber crime cell immediately in case they receive an invitation for the Momo Challenge.

Law Enforcement Agencies and Cyber Crime Cells across the nation have taken to social media to create awareness about this deadly suicidal game. They are advising parents to keep a tab on their children’s online activities and discourage them from playing this game.

The state administration has requested educational institutions too to monitor the behavioral patterns of children. 

Steps Taken by Bangalore Cyber Crime Cell to Protect Children from Momo Challenge

The Bangalore Cyber Crime Cell issued an advisory on the deadly challenge earlier this week. It has warned the media to strictly abstain from reporting or publishing unverified news about the Momo Challenge. The Department is also leveraging social media to urge parents and children to avoid an invitation to participate in the Momo Challenge.

In fact, children should completely avoid downloading such games or any images associated with the Momo Challenge. In case one notices a peer or kin playing the game or any unnatural changes in their behavior, he/she should immediately alert his/her parents, guardians or teachers.

The advisory issued also urges parents and teachers to watch out for any abnormal changes in their students’ or children’s behavior. They should educate children about online abuse such as the Momo Challenge and keep a tab on their online activities.

The Victims of the Momo Challenge Across the Globe

The perils of the Momo Challenge came into focus when a 12-year old girl in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was found dead in her backyard. Allegedly, she took this extreme step after having a chat with the infamous ‘Momo’!

After examining her phone, the police is now interrogating a teenager whom she allegedly contacted on social media. The teenager allegedly tried to upload the video of her challenges on social media as a part of the Momo Challenge.

Various other reports have emerged from different parts of the globe about children interacting with ‘Momo’. They have claimed that they received gory images and threats on WhatsApp from Momo.

The Momo Challenge is Fast Penetrating into India

The Momo Challenge has claimed two lives in the state of West Bengal. Manish Sarki (18) and Aditi Goyal (26), both natives of Kurseong in Darjeeling, are allegedly the victims of the Momo Challenge in India. Both of them committed suicide, allegedly as a part of the Momo Challenge.

Jalpaiguri resident, Kabita Rai, was quick to lodge a police complaint when she too received an invitation for the Momo Challenge. Within a week, another woman approached the Cyber Crime Cell of Kolkata with a similar concern.

It is about time that parents, teachers and other key influencers in a child’s life take active steps to protect children from Momo Challenge and other such forms of online abuse.

What Must Parents Do to Protect their Children from the Momo Challenge & Other Forms of Cyber Bullying?

  • Contact the nearest police station and report the very first instance of your child receiving such an invite.
  • Have an informal and friendly conversation with your children so that they share their experiences without any hesitation.
  • Encourage your ward to ask questions, and address their curiosity in a friendly manner.
  • Educate your children about the responsible and safe usage of social networking platforms and the Internet.
  • Warn your children to avoid interacting with strangers on social media and other online platforms.
  • Actively monitor and track your children’s online activities.
  • Encourage your child to abstain from groups where the admin is unknown or the objective of the group seems dubious.
  • Educate your child about the privacy settings on WhatsApp that hide the phone number and other details from those who are not added to your phone-book.

Incognito Forensic Foundation – In the League of Preventing the Online Abuse of Children

Information and Communication Technology has undoubtedly eased the communication and collaboration amongst children. But it has also provided conmen with a new channel to exploit the gullibility and innocence of children. Cyber bullying and online abuse tend to have a greater impact and reach than offline bullying.

Incognito Forensic Foundation (IFF Lab) is a private forensic laboratory with a presence in all major cities of India. It provides consultation and digital forensic services for cyber bullying and online abuse. If you need any assistance on how to protect children from Momo Challenge or report cyber bullying in India, get in touch with IFF Lab.

Contact us for Cyber Bullying and Online Abuse Consultation and Investigation.