Police forces warn of risks around online ‘Momo Challenge’

Police in Sudbury, Ont., and Gatineau, Que., say parents should be warning their children

Police forces in Canada are joining colleagues worldwide in issuing warnings about a disturbing online challenge that encourages participants to complete dangerous and violent tasks.

Police in Sudbury, Ont., and Gatineau, Que., say parents should be warning their children not to engage in the so-called “Momo Challenge.”

“We are concerned about it,” said a spokeswoman for Gatineau police.

The challenge involves users receiving an invitation on social messaging platforms, including WhatsApp and Snapchat, to message an account called “Momo.” That account may then send disturbing images and instructions for various tasks, as well as threats about what will happen if they aren’t carried out.

Gatineau police said they recommend users not respond to requests to begin the challenge.

“Block all accounts that are trying to reach them with a ‘momo challenge’ account,” she said, adding to report the account if it’s on Facebook. “We don’t have the power to shut down the profile.”

If anyone commits illegal activity because of the challenge, they could face criminal charges, police said.

Police in Sudbury said the account may threaten to access personal photos and information about a user or warn of a “curse” from “Momo.”

“We’re asking parents to have a conversation with their children and teens about the risks associated with engaging with any online challenges,” a Sudbury police spokeswoman said.

The Canada Safety Council says such challenges are preying on users’ gullibility and fears of the unknown.

“(The challenge) is obviously preying on people’s fears and concerns and general desire to respond to media, and that’s all very alarming,” said Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University. MacKay drafted Canada’s first cyberbullying law in 2015 and has since encouraged Nova Scotia’s legislators to create tougher regulations on cyber safety.

He said youth may participate in the challenge as they want to become a part of a viral trend. He said they may think “this is something fun to do … maybe it’s just kind of a joke,” when really, it’s dangerous.

Younger people, and the public in general, are not educated enough on the personal risks that exist online, MacKay said. Parents should monitor children’s online activity and block suspicious accounts, he added.

“We need better supports and maybe platforms need to provide people with better guidance,” MacKay said. “We’re much more vulnerable than we think we are.”

Police worldwide have warned social media users about the challenge, including authorities in India and Argentina. An image linked to the “momo” accounts that’s circled social media is that of a doll with long black hair, large eyes and a sinister-looking smile. The doll was first posted to Instagram around 2016.

Lewis Smith of the Canada Safety Council, an independent organization that works on safety education, said the “Momo Challenge” reminded him of an episode of the Netflix hit “Black Mirror.”

“Black Mirror” episodes portray a dark side to technological advances, like social media. “I wonder if (the challenge) was somewhat inspired by it,” Smith said.

“It’s a tricky subject, you want a parent to be aware of a child’s activity online … but it walks a fine line between being observant, and being overbearing,” Smith said, adding if you over-monitor, your child may work harder to hide their activity. “The best thing a parent can do is be present, let their child know that if they have anything they want to talk about, a parent is willing to discuss this.”

“They might be participating in this, because it’s what everyone else is doing,” he said, noting that young children might not understand the risks. “That kind of behaviour might lead to criminal action.”

Smith recommends parents document evidence, prevent further contact and call police.

“There’s no reason to get any deeper than you already are,” he said.

Olivia Bowden, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

In Our Opinion: Go get ‘em Nathan

They need to change the name of the capital of Canada. Anyone… Continue reading

Prince Rupert students learn to chase away anxiety

Author Amanda Stern presented at Prince Rupert Middle School on Feb. 22

Northern residents rejoice at increased BC Ferries sailings

B.C. government announced that service will be restored to 2014 levels

Rio Tinto donates $50K for Shames Mountain chairlift upgrades

The money was used to purchase the chairlift’s bull wheel replacement last summer

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Ice skating on the North Coast, a rare treat

Seawolves hockey players bring their gear to Oliver Lake this week to play on the outdoor rink

Pink Shirt Day a reminder to ‘T.H.I.N.K.’ before posting on social media

‘Be Kind’ message on shirts sold for anti-bullying activities of Wednesday, Feb. 27

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C.-based ‘Team Tardi’ brings home gold in junior curling worlds

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

Most Read