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MOMO Challenge is a Lesson in Radicalization

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Illustrative photo: (Photo: JEWEL SAMAD / AFP / Getty Images)
Illustrative photo: (Photo: JEWEL SAMAD / AFP / Getty Images)

Kids surfing the internet and messaging apps are coming across the Momo Challenge. The Momo Challenge is a internet game involving a deeply sinister character called ‘Momo‘ who challenges kids to take progressively radical self-harming steps that include suicide.

The ‘game’ has quickly gone viral with celebrity figures including Kim Kardashian now calling on Silicon Valley to remove the material from kid-accessible platforms. While not the first or last source of grotesque violence forced onto children, the Momo Challenge is a powerful lesson in radicalization.

As the Daily Mail UK describes the Momo challenge,

“The challenge encourages children to take steps, progressively hurting and isolating themselves from the world, where they are eventually told to kill themselves by an anonymous controller who plots their demise.”

A mother speaking on how Momo Challenge impacted her son, shared how her son related that Momo told him to go to the kitchen, take a knife and put it to his neck. In other cases, Momo tells children to sacrifice themselves to save the family.

Momo Challenge works a lot like radicalization. In both the Momo Challenge and online radicalization recruiting children to terror organizations,

  • The influence can originate from an anonymous source.
  • The influence isolates and alienates the child from their environment.
  • The influence drives the child toward self-harm.

The first step for parents in protecting their children against sinister online influences — whether it’s the Momo Challenge or other extremist influences — is to be fully present when their child is on the internet. It’s not enough to listen to what they’re watching as many of these dark videos sound acceptable or pull the audio of your child’s favorite show, while replacing the images with suicidal, grotesque, sexual and destructive content.

Another incident prior to the Momo Challenge that went reported among parenting communities was a disfigurement of a popular children’s cartoon, Peppa Pig, in which the characters were a hybrid between piggies and Micky Mouse that encourage a joint family suicide by blowing out each other’s brains with a gun, turn by turn. Meanwhile, the song accompanying the video was suggesting incest and pedophilia.

It is important to remember the internet is like an astral plane, accessible both ways through any portal. Horror movies are well-versed in this concept often using a sort of nether world of spirits to show how spirits and people can cross into and from each portal to another. In reality, the internet works the same way. Your child is stepping into the internet, but you as a parent have no idea what else has also stepped through.

If you are concerned about your child’s safety or that of other youth – please join one of our trainings. Click here for details.

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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.