The founder of a mental health group that supports vulnerable young people in North Kirklees has warned parents of the dangers of a new craze known as ‘The Momo Challenge’.
Stevie Morley, who runs Take Ten Youths in Dewsbury, said she and her volunteers are busily researching the phenomenon, which is understood to have been sent around various schools in the region in recent days.
The Momo challenge is an alleged form of cyberbullying which spreads over social media platforms and on the phone messaging service WhatsApp.
Children receive threats from an anonymous number associated with a picture of a character known as 'Momo', an alien-like woman with bulging eyes, an eerie stretched smile, and straggly hair.
Momo allegedly forces children to undertake dangerous tasks – apparently up to and including suicide – by threatening them with violence.
One Dewsbury mother said her nine-year-old son was aware of the ‘game’ when quizzed on Monday.
“It’s disgusting,” Stevie said, “it’s cyber-bullying at the end of the day and to be honest, it’s really scary.
“For young kids to get roped into something like this, it’s easily done, especially if their mental health isn’t in the most stable of places. Some of the children are daring their friends to go and watch it.
“It goes from things like carving numbers into your arm and cutting a hole in your lip to dangling yourself off a building and much worse.
“You’d think something like this would be shut down as soon as possible, but it hasn’t happened. It’s heart-wrenching.”
PC Rob Cowgill from West Yorkshire Police Cyber Unit Team said that they are yet to receive any reports of Momo-related incidents, but said:
"We would always urge parents to monitor what their children are doing online and try and install age restrictions on their devices.
"Further advice about staying safe online and keeping your children safe is available at www.westyorkshire.police.uk/cyber"