In response to the viral ‘Momo Challenge’, the Ministry of Electronics and IT has issued an advisory to parents to monitor their children’s online and social media activity. It has asked parents to refrain from talking about the challenge, or the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’, a similar game, to ensure they do not pique children’s interest.
The Momo Challenge encourages social media users to perform several self-harming dares, the last of which is suicide. The game, which first started on Facebook, is popular on WhatsApp as well. The ‘game controller’, an unidentified user who has a profile picture of a Japanese ‘Momo’ doll, challenges players and threatens them with violent images, audio and videos if they fail to comply. According to cyber experts, the challenge is a hoax aimed at stealing personal data and extorting information.
Also read | What is Momo Challenge?
The ministry has advised parents to monitor their children’s online activity, enquire about their mental health, and look out for unusually secretive behaviour, a sudden increase in spending time online and changing screens on their devices when approached. They have also been warned of increased withdrawal or anger, especially after using the internet, and new phone numbers and email contacts.
Parents have been asked to install good cyber/mobile parenting software to monitor online activity, be in touch with counsellors at school and seek professional help immediately in the case of doubt. Parents are also advised to remind their children of their support.
Ministry of Electronics and IT lists signs and symptoms of children being exposed to the Momo Challenge:
* Becoming withdrawn from friends and family
* Persistent low mood and unhappiness
* Looking worried that stops him/her from carrying out day to day tasks
* Sudden outbursts of anger directed at themselves or others
* Loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy
* Visible marks like deep cuts or wounds on any part of the body of the child