Parents are being warned about a sick and sinister character that is popping up on Youtube frightening children.
The Momo Challenge has spread globally, with the NZ Herald sharing video footage of how deeply affected one New Zealand family, the Ashby family of Manurewa, Auckland has been by its children seeing "Momo".
Schools in New Zealand and around the world have sent out warnings, saying they have been contacted by hundreds of concerned parents.
In this week's Target Road School (Auckland) newsletter principal Helen Varney urges parents, "The best advice I can give you is to make sure the online activity your children are participating in is closely monitored. This means you can see and hear what they are doing online.
"At school students are not able to access these games our system blocks them out and they are closely monitored when using any online sites."Much of the work behind hackers and these types of challenges is to gather information and this hideous one is no different. So talk to your children regularly about the apps/ games/ sites and the harm and risks to them. Online safety is vital and sometimes missed."
The Momo Challenge is thought to have first surfaced in 2018, after a creepy-looking doll called Mother Bird, created in Japan in 2016, became a meme.
The "Momo" character - a scary doll's face holding a knife - interrupts videos and threatens viewers. It has appeared on Fortnite, Peppa Pig and other popular YouTube videos and warns children if they tell their parents then their family will die.
Earlier reports have claimed that if you are sent the Momo image you must do whatever Momo says - the 'doll' encourages you to add it as a contact on WhatsApp and then hounds you with dares to self-harm and violent images. However, there are conflicting reports as to whether the instructions are real or urban myth. The more that's reported, the more confusing it becomes.
Earlier in the week police in the UK issued a warning to parents, and encouraged parents to also be vigilant about looking out for other sinister trends.
"Don't focus only on Momo, but make sure you know what your child has online access to. More important is that your child knows not to give out personal info to ANYONE they don't know, that no one has the right to tell them to, or make them do ANYTHING they don't want to," the Police Service of Northern Ireland wrote on their Facebook page.
"When it comes to devices, all phones have parental controls, and various things can be put in place via the network provider. If in doubt, ask. If there's parents out there who have found methods that work, discuss it here for everyone's benefit."
Mother-of-three Kim Kardashian even took to social media warning against the challenge, asking YouTube to 'Please help!'.
"Parents please be aware and very cautious of what your child watches on YouTube and KIDS YOUTUBE. There is a thing called 'Momo' that's instructing kids to kill themselves, turn stoves on while everyone is sleep and even threatening to kill the children if they tell their parents," read one post shared by the reality TV star.
Khamara Ashby told the NZ Herald she wants her children's personal experience with the disturbing character to be used as a warning and learning tool for other parents.
"Let your children know it's okay to speak up and keep an eye on the things they watch.
"Keep loving and protect them. That's our purpose as parents. Sit down and have a chat to your child about this as they might feel they have to keep it a secret as a way to keep safe.
"No children should ever feel the need to protect us when we should be the ones making them feel safe. It breaks my heart knowing my kids witnessed something so horrible."
Netsafe director of education and engagement Sean Lyons is encouraging parents who have come across any concerning content to immediately report it to authorities.
"Netsafe encourages anyone that comes across this type of content to immediately report it to the social media site or website that it's on.
"In New Zealand, it is against the law to incite another person to take their own life. If somebody is targeting a young person to play this 'game', or attempting to incite suicide, you should contact the police and Netsafe for help, and Lifeline for support.
"Netsafe can also provide advice for any parents who are concerned about this challenge. If young people are expressing feelings about self-harm or suicide then this should be followed up with appropriate mental health support."
YouTube claims it has not seen any evidence of the Momo Challenge on its platform.
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