Colorado school districts respond to disturbing “Momo Challenge”

Posted at 4:37 AM, Feb 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-28 10:04:34-05

DENVER At least two major Colorado school districts say they are talking with some of their students after an online trend resurfaced, encouraging children to harm themselves.

A spokesperson for Denver Public Schools confirmed the district has sent out some notices to select parents regarding the trending “Momo Challenge.”

A spokesperson for Jefferson County Schools confirmed at least one elementary school was addressing concerns from some students about the challenge internally.

The “Momo Challenge” uses a picture of an art piece in Tokyo to scare kids on social media, and then the person behind the account asks the children to harm themselves and upload proof of their injuries to social media.

(credit: CBS)

The children communicate primarily through the Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp.

The trend first sparked in the United Kingdom in 2018, but resurfaced in the United States as of late.

Some parents also raised concerns, after reporting YouTube was publishing videos that contained suicide instructions, disguised in the middle of cartoons. The videos were allegedly shared with children, through YouTube Kids, a platform of regularly-filtered content for young children.

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One parent took to Twitter, sharing video of a man appearing in the middle of a cartoon, instructing kids how to slit their wrists for suicide. She claimed she was watching the cartoon with her young son when she saw it. She shared the link, which was quickly removed by YouTube.

“Social media definitely has an influence,” said Melissa Amos, Behavioral Medicine Specialist with Kaiser Permanente in Denver.

Amos encouraged parents to establish a trusting relationship with their children, so the kids are more likely to speak up when they see something inappropriate. She said, at a young age, kids are more likely to listen to whatever they hear, even if it is from a stranger online.

“Kids are, by nature, very trusting, and open to suggestion,” Amos said. “Their brains are still forming, so they are taking in content every day on every level.”

By starting the conversation, Amos said parents could encourage their kids to be more cautious of what they see, and what they take to heart.

“(Parents should) keep that open line of communication, so their kid knows they can come and talk to them,” Amos said. “Build that bond with their child. So that child knows they can come and talk to them about anything.”