Please refer to a media release from the eSafety Commissioner about this apparent hoax. This is the full version of the excerpt below.
It has come to our attention that some children are discovering the existence of a hoax Internet challenge. It is alleged that children receive anonymous threatening messages tied to pictures of Momo, a grinning cartoonish figure developed by a Japanese special effects company.
This has been around since 2018 but was recently on the news and since then seems to have gained some momentum with children. Today we had a number of children talking about it before school and we took measures to reassure individual children who were feeling fearful, that the character is not real and is unable to do harm to anyone.
The images are claimed to be able to pop up in youtube videos of Peppa Pig and in Facebook sites as well as WhatsApp. That information may or may not be true but I urge you to be alert to anything that might be of concern to your child/ren that seems to be out of the ordinary.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner said it had received “several enquiries” about the challenge, but confirmed it was yet to see “any actual content containing the ‘Momo’ character or challenge in these enquiries”.
“It is very concerning when young people have been exposed to any content that scares them or plays on their emotions, like those reported via the Momo Challenge,” the Office of the eSafety Commissioner said in a statement to the ABC News.
“As young people often do not have the maturity or judgement to cope with confronting content online, it’s important to guide and instil critical reasoning skills, so they are aware that not everything they see or receive online is real.”
“The advice is that parents should co-view and co-play online with their children, and to let them know that they would be supported if they were upset or uncomfortable with anything they saw on the internet.”
The Momo Challenge is not the first nor will it be the last to target young children.
Although no children accessed this content via the school, as a school, we have blocked Youtube for the moment as we did not want children to attempt to explore further. That is unfortunate as it is a valuable tool for learning when used appropriately. Our filters do work extremely well and children understand that if they see any content that they are concerned about, to shut down immediately and report it to a teacher. Blocking Youtube is a short term strategy to give time for parents and teachers to talk with children if required. David Aparicio, our IT technician is also able to monitor internet use by students.
Teaching children about safe use of the internet also means that they themselves have a responsibility for taking appropriate action, whether at school or at home. This is central to what we teach at school and forms part of the agreement that parents and students co-sign. Together we are preparing children to be responsible and critical users of the internet both when supervised within a school setting and when unsupervised outside of school. This Momo topic is a good opportunity for parents to sit and talk about being a safe user of the internet and social media.
The media release lists some valuable suggestions as to how parents can also assist when children access the internet at home.
We do rely on parents to assist us with any concerns in relation to the internet and I wish to thank those parents who kindly passed on information before school today.