Police have issued warnings to parents on social media after WhatsApp challenge has resurfaced, sometimes infiltrating children’s YouTube videos. A northern California mother says her daughter has fallen victim to the “Momo challenge” — and created a nearly catastrophic situation in their home.
Children who participate in the challenge contact a creepy stranger – “Momo” – who communicates primarily through the Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp. Momo encourages a participant to complete various tasks if they want to avoid being “cursed.” Some of the tasks include self harm. Ultimately, the game ends with Momo telling the participant to take their own life and record it for social media challenge.
Pearl Woods told US that her 12-year-old daughter with autism was encouraged to do dangerous things by the character. “Just another minute, she could’ve blown up my apartment, she could’ve hurt herself, other people, beyond scary,” Woods said.
Woods, lives in Folsom, is careful about what videos her daughter, Zoey, can watch online and has multiple parental settings. “She’s on the spectrum and a lot of children that are, are very impressionable,” she said.
A few weeks ago, Zoey began displaying some unusual behavior. “Where is ‘suicide’ coming from? Why would she ask me about a knife into an outlet?” Woods said.
Last weekend Zoey turned the kitchen gas stove on without letting it light, which created a potentially explosive situation.
“She kept telling me about Momo and I just didn’t understand, I see now,” Woods said.
She discovered alarming short clips popping up in the videos Zoey was watching. “She pauses the screen as soon as I walked in and I saw this creepy masked doll looking,” Woods said.
Her daughter told her, “It was Momo making bad videos. It was bad.”
Whether the challenge is a hoax or not, officials say it’s a teachable moment. “That’s really an explosive fire danger,” said Captain Chris Vestal with Sac Metro Fire. “We really encourage parents to pay attention to what their children are doing on the internet, ask them what they’re doing.”
Across the country, kids are reporting seeing Momo videos with the strange cartoon-like character telling kids to do dangerous things.