Headline News By Joanne Schnurr 460 Views

Ottawa school board, OPP issue warning about 'Momo challenge'

Ontario Provincial Police and several Ottawa area school boards are warning tonight about a dangerous cyber-bullying threat aimed at children.

It's called the "Momo Challenge" and parents are being urged to be vigilant about online safety. It's a disturbing image of a witch-like creature, deliberately aimed at grabbing the attention of kids.  The "Momo Challenge" as it's called popped up a few years ago and is now resurfacing, prompting school boards and police to issue warnings to parents and children.

The Wright family, visiting Ottawa from Virginia, had heard of the Momo Challenge and were actively talking about it.

“This is just what we were talking about last night,” says father Jason Wright, “It's horrible but a good reminder to families how careful you have to be and what you're letting your kids have access to, right bud,” he says, as he turns to his young son.

The "challenge" seems to be passed around primarily through WhatsApp but also YouTube in videos like Fortnite and Peppa the Pig.

The OPP in Eastern Ontario issued a warning today about this challenge targeting our children.

“I need for parents to be extra vigilant right now with what their kids are watching on internet,” Sgt. Ann Collins with the OPP detachment in Grenville said in an on-line video tweet, “It is asking them to do dangerous things, dangerous challenges and not to tell their parents or serious consequences could happen to the parent as well.”

Several school boards in our region are sending letters home to parents encouraging them to talk to their kids about the "Momo Challenge."

"This is a cyberbullying threat and Internet hoax." the Ottawa public school board said in its note. "There is concern that the "challenge" element will spread quickly and could lead to risks in student behaviour, feelings of anxiety and stress and student bullying." 

The Ottawa Catholic School Board said, "You may have seen something in the news recently about a global unsolicited viral message called ‘MOMO’. MOMO can literally pop up in social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, Youtube videos including YouTube Kids), targeting/challenging young students to self-harm or perform other risky tasks. When it comes to digital safety and literacy, a proactive stance is the most effective. You might consider speaking to your child or children about these types of viral pop-ups online."

“It's kind of scary it's happening right now in real life,” said Ottawa resident Devin Allen, “so hopefully parents can monitor their kids and find a way to remove it.”

And that is definitely the advice from experts: know what social media apps your kids are using and monitor them.

“You definitely need to be involved in what your children are doing online,” added mother Kodi Wright, “You just can't let them loose.”

One expert said parents need to know that it is okay to ask their kids questions about their social media usage and know not only what content they're receiving but what they're uploading, too.