“Moral panic” is spreading among parents as the disturbing Momo challenge circles the internet.
Charities say there have been no reports of anybody receiving messages or harming themselves as a result of the momo challenge – and that it is nothing but a “moral panic” spread by adults.
They have warned that media coverage has amplified a false scare story.
“News coverage of the momo challenge is prompting schools or the police to warn about the supposed risks posed by the momo challenge, which has in turn produced more news stories warning about the challenge,” said the Guardian media editor Jim Waterson.
The UK Safer Internet Centre called the claims “fake news”.
Momo in the north-east
Parents in the north-east have been sent letters urging them to educate their children on cyber security on the back of a disturbing game sweeping the internet.
Children are being targeted by an alarming clip of a doll on the Momo game which has appeared on a video sharing website.
Fears have been raised that the challenge has been encouraging children to self-harm as it hounds them with horrible images and dares.
Some parents have been voicing their concerns online and police are now urging families to use this as an opportunity to educate children about the dangers of the internet.
PC Michael Taylor, school liason officer in the north-east, has sent a letter to parents of pupils in Turriff, Banff, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Mintlaw and Ellon.
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It states: “Two of my schools have been in contact in relation to social media activity over the past week.
“The Momo challenge has come to light, again, and a number of shared Facebook posts have been circulated to warn of the dangers.
“I’m sure the posts have been shared with the best of intentions but some of the younger children, seeing the imagery and content, have been quite disturbed and upset as a result.”
The ParentZone leaflet attached to the letter states: “It is important to remember it is very rare that children have harmed themselves due to the trend and much of its profile has been built upon social media exaggeration.”
Parents of Moray school pupils have also been issued with a leaflet on Momo and the associated dangers.
Moray Council head of schools, Vivienne Cross, said: “It’s very disturbing what the sick minds of some people are capable of producing, and we are urging all parents of young children to monitor what they are watching on their devices.
“As soon as we were alerted to this we ensured all head teachers were informed and that parents were advised.”
Chief inspector Scott Tees, from the Police Scotland Safer Communities unit, admitted that Momo is a cause for concern for parents but stressed that there had been “countless other examples over the years.”
Today we've heard from hundreds of concerned schools and parents about the horrifying #Momo challenge which has reportedly been appearing in children's YouTube videos, causing panic and upset amongst young people. We hope you find our guide useful… https://t.co/Nuu4cUpBZD pic.twitter.com/t16m8GQ6Vt
— National Online Safety (@natonlinesafety) February 26, 2019
He said: “We would encourage parents not to panic, but instead sit down with their children and talk about all aspects of their online world and explain the potential dangers.”
MP David Duguid said parents would be “horrified” when they learned about the game but said it was “reassuring” to know police were being pro-active and highlighting it as an issue.
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said the council was aware of the situation and was encouraging parents to heed police advice and teach children to be aware of stranger dangers.