'Momo challenge' raises concerns among local parents and school officials

By  | 

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A concerning social media challenge has once again gathered national attention, putting parents on edge.

The “Momo challenge” is the disturbing image of a woman who encourages children to participate in dangerous activities.

The image of Momo has resurfaced across the U.S., frightening young children and allegedly encouraging self-harm.

“She will ask kids, or challenge kids, to do unsafe things as part of the ‘Momo challenge,’” explained local psychotherapist, author and blogger Dr. Erin Leonard.

The image of Momo, taken from a Japanese sculpture, allegedly appears as a hoax in children's YouTube videos and has also been received in WhatsApp text messages.

It's a hoax that has parents, educators and law enforcement concerned.

“When children are growing up, they're really struggling with the developmental task of distinguishing fantasy from reality,” Leonard said. “So, when they see something that feels very real but it isn't real, it's confusing to them.”

The principal of Horizon Elementary in Granger released a letter to parents on Friday saying, “Please talk to your kids about this current concern and encourage them NOT to be involved with any of it.”

“Definitely [have] parental controls on their devices,” Leonard suggested. “And [have] a conversation with your child also.”

Leonard says empathize with your child, no matter their age, and assure them they are safe.

“You want to say something like, 'It feels so real, I know that it feels so real to you, but it's not. I promise you it is not real,’” Leonard said.

“Even if you have an older child, empathizing and not shaming them or embarrassing them for being afraid of something that is pretend; because it really is tough at any age,” she added. “That sort of material is tough.”

Niles Community Schools released a statement to NewsCenter 16 saying the “Momo challenge” “serves as a reminder for parents to be aware of the potential dangers of social media and to monitor internet activity.”

The statement goes on to say, “We encourage families to have open discussions with their children about how they use social media, proactive online safety protocol, and to report any potential threats.”