Online game “Momo Challenge” pose grave threat to children: CBSE

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had cautioned the school principals to be wary about the propensity of children to indulge in the online game, “Momo Challenge”, which posed a grave threat, according to a TOI report. The Board had further advised school principals to take preventive steps to stop students from undertaking dangerous self-harming tasks, noted the report.

Giving a detailed insight about the impact of this online game to school heads, the circular issued by the CBSE noted that in the game, members were challenged to communicate with unknown numbers and the game is replete with self-harming dares, which become risky as the game progresses. The outcome of the game comes with a suicide challenge, and it involves challenges that encourage teenagers/children or youth to engage in a series of violent acts. Hence, the Board had shared with principals an advisory from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, which might as well help identify symptoms in children who are playing the game and tips to help teachers to stop these children from succumbing to it, the report said.

Common Signs

The common signs and symptoms to look for, according to the report, includes withdrawing from friends and family, persistent low mood and unhappiness, sudden outbursts of anger, loss of interest in activities a child used to enjoy earlier and more. Parents and teachers have been urged to monitor their wards and their actions on the internet and the social media activities, besides looking out for unusually secretive behaviour and install an excellent cyber/mobile parenting software. What is more, the advisory also calls for parents and school counsellors to engage with each other on a regular basis. City school heads were of the opinion that they were already communicating with students to ensure none fell prey to the game.

Chandrakanta Pathak, Principal of HVB Global Academy, Marine Drive in Mumbai tells the daily, “Our teachers and counsellors speak to students regularly to comprehend what they are doing online. We also ensure the electronic devices in schools have access to only digital learning content.”

Momo Challenge is a cyberbullying, spread mainly through social media platforms as well as mobile phones. The modus operandi is that the mobile phone users, an especially vulnerable lot like children and adolescents are wooed to be in touch with a user named Momo through social media network. Subsequently, those in contact with Momo receive graphic threats from the user and are instructed to perform a series of dangerous tasks. According to a report published by the Indian Express on August 30, 2018, the Momo Challenge reportedly started on Facebook, where members were ‘challenged’ to communicate with an unknown number. Furthermore, it allegedly involves challenges that encourage children to engage in a series of violent acts that end with suicide. If in the previous year, the Blue Whale Challenge had allegedly led to some deaths among teenagers across the world, now a new game, Momo Challenge is reportedly encouraging children to perform dangerous challenges, said the report. The game, which is going viral on social media platforms, especially WhatsApp is allegedly linked to the death of a 12-year-old girl in Argentina, the Buenos Aires, quoting Times, the IE report added.

Citing The Sun, the report further said that besides the game, apparently started on Facebook, where members were challenged to communicate with the unknown number, once the initial contact with a user is established, the Momo account sends some challenged and activities that are to be completed to meet Momo.

It allegedly involves challenges that encourage children to engage in a series of violent acts that end with suicide. If a user refuses to follow the game’s orders, Momo threatens them with violent images, The Sun reported. The account appears to be connected to three numbers in Japan, Mexico, and Columbia.

‘Momo’ is a social media account on popular platforms that use an image of a doll with extensive features, large eyes and a full mouth to induce curiosity among children, the report added. The artwork called Mother Bird by Link Factory is inspired by the work of a Japanese artist Midori Hayashi, who has no association with the challenge, according to officials.

Deaths linked to Momo Challenge

The Argentina Police are connecting the end of a 12-year-old to the game. The girl filmed her activities immediately before the suicide on her phone. Authorities suspect someone encouraged her to take her own life, the Buenos Aires Times reported. The officials are hunting for the “adolescent with whom she exchanged those messages” and have issued a warning to the parents to monitor the browsing activity of their children, said the report.

Indian Context

As of now, no reports are suggesting the presence of the challenge. As per cyber experts, the challenge is a hoax aimed at stealing personal data and extorting information, the report added.

Image source: India today

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