Momo – should we be worried?

The Key
The Key
The latest internet trend, reportedly linked to child suicides and self-harm, has been debunked as a hoax, but pupils and parents are still concerned. Find out where it came from and what you should do next.

‘Momo’ is an image of a scary, doll-like puppet. It’s been reported that anonymous individuals are adding children and young people on Facebook and WhatsApp, using the image of Momo as an avatar, and then encouraging them to do ‘challenges’ some of which can be frightening or dangerous.

At the moment there’s only anecdotal evidence, and no reports from official sources that the ‘Momo challenge’ has led to children harming themselves. The ensuing media coverage may, however, be harmful and frightening to young people.

The ‘Momo challenge’ originally gained attention in July last year, and resurfaced this month when a Facebook post from a concerned parent went viral (it was shared thousands of times). It’s since been covered by several news outlets.

What you can do as a school:

  • Don’t panic. The ‘Momo challenge’ itself is unlikely to pose an immediate risk to pupils’ health, but…
  • Designated safeguarding leads (DSLs) should monitor the behaviour of pupils who they feel may be particularly affected by suggestions of self-harm or suicide
  • Only notify parents or share information about Momo with pupils as and when needed. Be careful not to scaremonger or peak interest in the issue further by proactively sharing the image or story with pupils or parents
  • Be aware that the image, and surrounding media coverage, might still be frightening to children. Report directly to the social media platform itself if you see anything to do with Momo, and don’t forward it on anywhere
  • Use this opportunity to remind parents and pupils about online safety. Individuals or groups may jump on the bandwagon and create their own versions of the ‘Momo challenge’ as pranks. Remind pupils to speak to a trusted adult if they see anything unsettling online
  • Share our more general online safety resources with parents, including a YouTube factsheet which helps them keep their children safe online

Members of The Key for School Leaders have access to a range of articles on the subject of pupil safety online and a wealth of other topics on www.thekeysupport.com/SL

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