THERE is concern a game which encourages users to cause themselves harm, and in some cases led to suicide, is “targeting” Northern Ireland children.
It has led to the PSNI to put out a Northern Ireland-wide alert to warn the parents of the potentially deadly dangers their children could be exposed to.
The “Momo Challenge” has swept the online gaming world.
It first appeared last year.
The menacing-looking Momo character lurks behind apparently innocent-looking games in the hope that while a parent’s attention is distracted it appears and challenges or dares the gamer into “grotesque” acts of self harm.
It has also been found to appear in the middle of apparently harmless YouTube videos popular with youngsters.
The female character with distorted face, bulging eyes and a repulsive grin has also encouraged people to message it through Whatsapp where again worrying instructions are made.
Momo also tells the user it’s a secret and they are not to reveal anything to their parents.
Reports in Europe and around the world have linked the game to suicides of young children.
There have been numerous reports on social media of people from across Northern Ireland seeing the character pop up while their children played a game or watched a video.
Detective Sergeant Elaine McCormill from PSNI’s Public Protection Branch said: “Whilst no official reports have been made to Police, we are aware of the so-called “Momo” challenge and are already liaising with other UK Police Services to try to identify the extent of the problem and to look for opportunities to deal with this issue.
“This extremely disturbing challenge conceals itself within other harmless looking games or videos played by children and when downloaded, it asks the user to communicate with “Momo” via popular messaging applications such as WhatsApp.
“It is at this point that children are threatened that they will be cursed or their family will be hurt if they do not self-harm.
“I am disgusted that a so-called game is targeting our young children and I would encourage parents to know what your children are looking at and who they are talking to.
“Whilst the threat of a curse may sound silly to an adult, it could be a very frightening prospect for a young child and they may feel under pressure to carry out acts to protect themselves or family from further harm.
“The most fundamental piece of advice that I can offer is to speak with your children – let them know that they do not have to deal with any concerns on their own.
“It is crucial that parents are involved with their children’s online lives and I’d urge parents to make children aware of online dangers and ensure they know that they can speak to someone if anything or anyone online causes them concern.
“I would also advise parents to ensure that any devices used by your children are restricted to age suitable content. However, I am aware of media reports that the “Momo” challenge has popped up even when these controls are in place so there really is no substitution for supervising the games that children are playing and the videos that they watch online.
“I would encourage anyone who has been a victim of the “Momo” challenge to contact Police on 101 or of course, 999 in an emergency so that we can examine the device, gather information and investigate the incident. A wealth of information and support is also available online, including on the following sites: