Cyber bullying takes sinister turn

The Momo Challenge character instructs children to complete dangerous challenges they must keep secret or Momo will kill them.

The Film and Publication Board (FPB) has urged parents to closely monitor their children's online activities, especially games downloaded from various app stores or other online sources.

This after the "Momo Challenge", an alleged cyber bullying game targeting young children, surfaced on online and social media platforms.

The Momo character appears as a scary doll figure with a creepy grin and protruding eyes. It requests the user to make contact with her on WhatsApp through one of several contact numbers.

Reports claim the character encourages children to complete dangerous tasks, self-harm and ultimately take their own lives. The kids are instructed to keep everything a secret or Momo will kill them.

This week, police in Northern Ireland issued a public warning about the Momo game on Facebook, stating they believe it is being used by hackers to harvest information, reports BBC.

Although there are no confirmed incidents in SA, the FPB advises parents to be vigilant to ensure those in their care are safe online.

Dr Maria Motebang, FPB's acting CEO, says: "Our FPB online monitors conducted a search on legitimate and known app stores and were unable to find reference to the game. However, there is a possibility that the game may be shared on a peer-to-peer basis. Parents and guardians are therefore urged to monitor their children's devices and report such content on the FPB hotline number 0800 148 148 or www.fpbhotline.org.za."

Sureshnie Rider, 5FM newsreader, also tweeted this morning: "Hi mums and dads, please check your little one's devices and do a scan in case the #MomoChallenge has made its way into their devices. It's a scary challenge that needs to be stopped."

Referencing a research study conducted with the University of SA in 2015, the FPB says children as young as 10 years old are being allowed to play games with an age restriction of 18 years, exposing them to gruesome and graphic violence as well as offensive language.

"We urge parents to ensure they adhere to age restrictions as assigned by the FPB. Age-appropriate content goes a long way towards protecting your young ones from premature exposure to content that causes them psychological and developmental harm," adds Motebang.

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