The emergence of popular social networking sites ushered in a new era of Internet use and created an unprecedented opportunity for global communication. One major result of our hyper-connected world is the ability for images, videos, and trends to go viral — reaching millions of people within a very short period of time.
Internet virality can launch people to fame, as it did with Mason Ramsey when the boy was caught on video yodeling his heart out in a Wal-Mart and given the opportunity to sing professionally. It can also damage reputations, as is often the cause when offensive Tweets resurface or an unseemly secret is exposed. Sometimes Internet virality can even prove fatal.
Social media also gives online predators the opportunity to engage with vulnerable children from behind a veil of anonymity. The latest viral trend terrifying parents is the “Momo Challenge,” a game played via WhatsApp that encourages children to self-harm and eventually commit suicide. While Internet conspiracy experts are skeptical that the challenge is real, many remain concerned about the risks of exposing their children to an unpredictable online world.
According to TMZ, even Kim Kardashian has gotten involved, begging YouTube to take action against these videos.
The Internet can be a scary place.The web is just an extension of the world as we know it, with an extra level of anonymity that can often bring out the worst in people.
Sometimes this just means internet trolling.Getting yelled at by someone hiding behind an avatar is an unfortunate staple of social media.
Other instances are definitely creepy but can be shaken off as just another digital ghost story.Disturbing videos like the one of Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv smiling sparked rumors of viewers going mad by the end, but the stories remain unconfirmed.
But there have been tons of scary instances in which online violence goes beyond the screen.Particularly among young children, who are especially vulnerable to cyber harm.
For example, the ‘Slenderman’ started out as just a creepy fictional character.
via: ShutterstockThe persona was invented by a user in the Something Awful forums in 2009, but eventually, the Internet mythos around the character’s real existence resulted in a young girl’s death.
Two 12-year-old girls stabbed a classmate in the forest outside their home to impress Slenderman.
A Wisconsin teenager accused of stabbing a classmate in 2014 to win favor with a fictional internet character named… https://t.co/yFFSALdFGi— CNN (@CNN)1517529065.0
The latest disturbing “game" allegedly targeting children is the Momo Challenge.
The image alone is extremely unsettling.Momo’s image is actually that of a sculpture created by artist Keisuke Aisawa, of the special effects firm Link Factory. The creator denies any involvement with the current popular use of the image online.
That’s because it’s apparently being used to encourage extreme violence.
According to reports, once a child responds Momo begins sending disturbing messages.
First, they are reportedly instructed to gradually isolate themselves.
Today we've heard from hundreds of concerned schools and parents about the horrifying #Momo challenge which has rep… https://t.co/wL12IH8VzZ— National Online Safety (@National Online Safety)1551203628.0
Momo makes them fear for their lives.
Police in U.K. issue warning about 'Momo Challenge' urging kids to self-harm https://t.co/TdpqXq8RQc https://t.co/axViUWMhll— CTV News (@CTV News)1551213035.0
Reports of Momo are beginning to surface from around the world.Lyn Dixon, a mother from Edinburgh, Scotland, discovered her eight-year-old son holding a knife to his neck after receiving instruction from the disturbing cyber criminal.
Now, Ms. Dixon says her son is scared to be alone after interacting with Momo.
Why parents are freaking out about the Momo challenge https://t.co/JUr9GX6Mzx https://t.co/Oy0ijz1DKg— Rolling Stone (@Rolling Stone)1551220146.0
While Dixon was able to stop her son in time, there are other reports of the challenge resulting in more devastating cases.
"MOMO" CHALLENGE WARNING: Authorities in U.S. and other countries are warning about the "Momo" challenge. They say… https://t.co/6wh8bDV6rl— WIBW (@WIBW)1533343803.0
The Momo Challenge was also linked to the suicide of a 13-year-old boy in France.
Un adolescent de 14 ans s’est suicidé en Bretagne, son père accuse "Momo Challenge" https://t.co/eeARVPOwFC via France Bleu— Vareille Evelyne (@Vareille Evelyne)1540023177.0
Lyn Dixon went to her son’s school after the incident to spread the word about Internet safety.
However, some remained unconvinced the Momo Challenge is the real cause behind these incidents.
"The greatest irony of all is that it is now parents who are scaring each other by sharing 'Momo' – not children." https://t.co/cmpdycdbvb— snopes.com (@snopes.com)1551225124.0
In 2016, the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ was deemed the cause of deaths around the world.The so-called “suicide game" was targeted at teenagers, challenging them to complete a series 50 of self-harm tasks that concluded with them taking their own lives.
People were terrified of the evil social network phenomenon.
Must read. https://t.co/2USB5nlBkl— je (@je)1550534946.0
Recently the “Game of 72" made headlines.
Authorities are warning parents about '48-Hour Challenge' https://t.co/e9pH8GwsXX— Cindy Lou (@Cindy Lou)1550783399.0
But that was debunked too.Police reported that the only pieces of evidence were Facebook posts by concerned parents, none of whom knew any actual victims of the challenge.
Internet conspiracy experts believe Momo is another hoax.The lack of screenshot evidence for a game that is supposedly viral is inspiring skepticism.
Technology reporter Larry Magid also expressed doubts.
It's likely a hoax; https://t.co/1AdVXxK6Vi https://t.co/pH0EXxG2pl— Larry Magid (@Larry Magid)1535399713.0
So, the Momo Challenge is likely not to blame for these tragic events.
Rumors of games like the Momo Challenge often inspire copycats.
I wrote about why coverage of the "deadly suicide game" the "Momo challenge" is incredibly stupid and dangerous, an… https://t.co/AWX82PXYwz— Amelia Tait (@Amelia Tait)1551098466.0
Even though a scary sculpture cannot come to visit you in the middle of the night, it’s good to know how to protect yourself online.
Momo challenge character 'told boy to stab himself in neck' in suicide game https://t.co/CsoP5TMHfG https://t.co/eJ77MbEZGZ— Daily Mirror (@Daily Mirror)1551213223.0
For parents whose kids are online, foster an open dialogue about Internet safety.
Lots of calls about "momo" this morn after a viral Facebook post was shared over the half term holidays. Some sens… https://t.co/Qy4ulJ0eYo— POSHelpline (@POSHelpline)1551094962.0
Don't share any personal information with online strangers.
via: ShutterstockCultivating a healthy skepticism around the Internet and withholding personal information can go a long way to protecting a child.
And check in regularly.
Kids may not be quick to come forward with information, especially if they fear consequences from some unidentifiable threat. Ask direct questions and block risky identities liberally.