Expert Says Momo Challenge Is Likely a Hoax

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.
February 27, 2019 Updated: February 27, 2019

A psychologist has described the viral “Momo challenge” as largely a hoax, saying that the instructions for the game—which allegedly encourage self-harm or even suicide in children—probably aren’t real.

The “challenge” first went viral last summer, and at the time, it was largely described as a hoax. CBS News reported that Argentine officials investigated a 12-year-old’s death in relation to the hoax, but details of the case are scant.

Dr. Dawn Branley-Bell, a cyberpsychologist from Northumbria University, told Yahoo News: “I believe that the Momo challenge is largely an urban myth or online hoax. This is the latest ‘hot topic’ which is spreading like wildfire due to its sensationalist nature and is causing a lot of parents to be unnecessarily worried.”

WHAT ALL PARENTS NEED TO KNOW: The disturbing viral 'challenge' pops up on YouTube videos encouraging them to harm…

Posted by KRON 4 News on Wednesday, 27 February 2019

She said it’s “the modern equivalent of the monster under the bed,” but acknowledges that a small number of children may have been disturbed.

“The sculpture was originally part of an art exhibition in Tokyo and had absolutely nothing to do with any ‘challenge’ but somewhere along the line someone has started this hoax and it has spread,” she said.

She said that “if  a child is/has been affected, then we would be better focusing upon the underlying psychological reasons behind that child’s vulnerability.”

Epoch Times Photo
A photo shows the viral Momo image. (KnowYourMeme – Digitally blurred by Epoch Times)

“More generally, we should be focusing upon providing the younger generation with the tools they need to become resilient to online content, through education and support—including equipping them with the skills to identify hoaxes and encouraging them to become critical observers of what they see online, which would be much more beneficial than headlines and panic around extreme crazes or rumors,” the professor said.

Branley-Bell said another online craze will come along, like Momo or Slenderman.

“There will no doubt be another challenge that comes along, however, it is undoubtedly likely to involve an element of fear—whether that’s through the character fronting the hoax, such as the haunting imagery associated with Momo and Slenderman, and/or a fear of the consequences, i.e., the threat that something bad will happen to you or your family if you do not follow through with the challenges,” she said.

What’s not a hoax is the terrifying nature of the image.

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian-West attend the Rihanna Party
Even Kim Kardashian issued a warning about the Momo challenge on Feb. 27, 2019. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for EDITION)

The disturbing images of the bug-eyed bird-woman are very real, and some schools and a police force issued warnings about them showing up in YouTube videos for kids.

According to local Utah station KUTV, parents say their children are scared after seeing the Momo challenge.

“My son, when we would put him to bed he would be scared and he would be like what about Momo?” Sara Markham said of her child.

“Momo came up and then the therapist was asking more about it. And he actually got my phone and said, ‘okay, Google. Show me MoMo,’” Markham added.

Police, Schools Issue Warnings

Police in Ireland issued a warning on social media about the online game.

“Our advice as always, is to supervise the games your kids play and be extremely mindful of the videos they are watching on YouTube,” the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said on Facebook this week (Warning: disturbing photo).

“Ensure that the devices they have access to are restricted to age-suitable content,” the office explained.

The police force also suggested the alleged suicide threat posed Momo game could be overblown and might be merely a way for hackers to exploit people.

Derbyshire Police also posted a warning.

“If you’re a parent of young children or teenagers, you ought to be aware of the #MomoChallenge, a game which allegedly encourages children to perform acts of self-harm via online messages received on Whatsapp and You Tube,” said the police department on Twitter.

The office said there is “a lot of misleading information” spreading online about the challenge.

Several schools in the United Kingdom have also issued warnings about the online challenge.

Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.