COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Police and educators around the world are worried teens may take part in a disturbing suicide game reported on social media that is said to encourage them to harm themselves and eventually commit suicide.
The disturbing suicide “game” called the “Momo Challenge” is said to spread through WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube, though Youtube tweeted Wednesday:
We want to clear something up regarding the Momo Challenge: We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube. Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies.
If you see videos including harmful or dangerous challenges on YouTube, we encourage you to flag them to us immediately. These challenges are clearly against our Community Guidelines. More info here: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802027
The leader of the reported “Momo” Challenge is an “avatar,” a scary-looking woman with dark, scraggly hair, bulging eyes and a giant, creepy smile and the character is known to hack into users’ cell phones. The avatar is the work of Japanese artist Midori Hayashi, who is not associated with the game in any way.
Momo Challenge players are sent disturbing and graphic photos, and are made to perform acts of self-harm, including suicide, or face consequences of having their private information shared online, according to the Ohio Department of Education, which posted a warning on their online portal for parents in February of 2019.
Austin Lucas with the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation says regardless of if it is a hoax or not, there are steps parents and teachers should take if their child or student ask about the video. Lucas says the resurfacing of the warning is a good time for parents to bring up positive mental health, even talking about the sensitive subject of suicide, and creating a comfortable environment where children feel like they can share how they are feeling.
There are currently no confirmed deaths associated with the challenge in the U.S. — and authorities want to keep it that way.
Teens and younger kids may not bring up the video to an adult, but could bring it up with friends in a joking manner. Lucas says this could be a sign of something more serious that needs to be addressed.