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Parents Beware: Dangerous 'Momo' Internet Challenge Sweeping the Globe

08-18-2018

A dangerous new internet craze is raising concern among parents and law-enforcement officials.

The "Momo Challenge" encourages people to text a random number on the free messaging app called "WhatsApp." A creepy bird woman responds back, asking the user to perform a series of escalating dares. If they do not complete the challenges, the number threatens to leak their personal information to friends, family members, and strangers.

"It starts leaving these crazy messages, violent images, and say that it knows secret things about you, personal things about you, and it tells you that in order for it to not share the information, you need to basically commit self-harm," Technology Expert Caleb Kinchlow explains.

The Buenos Aires Times reported that the game is linked to the suicide of a 12-year-old girl in Argentina. Police say she took her own life after doing the challenge. 

One of the biggest problems law enforcement faces is tracking down who's behind the craze.

"There are multiple numbers, actually, so it's actually hard to pinpoint who is specifically behind it. There are numbers in Japan, Mexico, Argentina," Kinchlow says, adding that whoever started it had "malicious intent."

The BBC reports the challenge has spread to Mexico, United States, France, and Germany.

While this challenge is potentially dangerous, Kinchlow says it's nothing new.

 "Even back in the nineties there was a challenge, I think it was called 'Space Monkeys,' where basically you have somebody push against your chest and make you pass out. But now with social media, it’s becoming viral," he explains.

Kinchlow advises parents to use the challenge as a conversation starter to warn their children about the dangers of social media.

"Use information like this, challenges like this, whether they're as benign as the ice bucket challenge or more sinister like the pod challenge, as a jumping off point to engage in conversation. Don't assume your kid knows what to do. Let's talk about this and say 'Hey, these are the kind of challenges out there. Here's what you should or shouldn't do,'" he says.

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