A Cheltenham mum has called on parents to be aware of what their children get up to on the internet after her girl played the Momo Challenge.
The girl had got sucked into the the Momo Challenge after she had been watching videos on the YouTube Kids over the weekend.
By Tuesday morning the five-year-old girl’s behaviour was beginning to concern her mum who confronted her – and then found her daughter had cut off “her lovely blonde curly locks”.
The mum, who did not want to be named, said: “Over the weekend, I noticed my child’s behaviour become erratic, almost like she’s gone back to her terrible twos again.
“On Tuesday morning we were up as usual and were getting ready.”
The mum said her daughter would normally be “pestering her” while in her uniform but this morning she couldn’t hear her from her room. She went to her bedroom and decided to confront her.
“I asked her what she was going. She said nothing. I opened the door and was standing in the middle of the bedroom. There was a pair of kitchen scissors in her hand.
“There was blonde hair everywhere round her bedroom.
“I screamed ‘what the hell are you doing?’”
The mum told Gloucestershire Live that her girl said to her: “Momo told me to do it”.
With a scary doll’s face, Momo is reportedly hacking into child-friendly apps such as Peppa Pig, Fortnite and YouTube Kids and getting them to do the Momo Challenge.
The Momo character was designed by a Japanese artist for an exhibition and the artist is not linked with the challenge.
But it interacts with the child through WhatsApp and gets them to take part in challenges, making threats if they don’t carry them out.
The mother had been aware of reports of Momo Challenge and said she “freaked out”.
What is the Momo challenge and where did it come from?
A creepy woman with straggly hair, protruding eyes and a devil grin called “Momo” entices kids to contact her through WhatsApp.
Kids receive a message requests from an unknown number which then proceeds to send graphic images and instructions to harm themselves and others – or she will “curse them”.
However, this creepy image wasn’t designed with evil intention or to be part of these threats and has unwittingly been used in the sick online game.
The picture is actually of a sculpture created by Japanese special effects company, Link Factory.
The work is by Japanese artist Midori Hayashi, who is also not associated with the game.
Japanese artist Midori Hayashi is known for making bizarre dolls using different animal parts.
The grotesque character was on display at Tokyo’s, Vanilla Gallery – the artist named it Mother Bird.
After it was shared on social media its original story quickly became distorted and it was soon associated with the Momo game.
The viral challenged gained major attention after a 12-year-old girl was found dead in her backyard near Buenos Aires, Argentina, after allegedly having an online conversation with the disturbing character.
But she said she was able to ask questions about what happened and how Momo had got her to cut her hair.
“I said ‘who’s Momo?’ ‘It’s the lady on YouTube’, she said. I asked ‘how did she do this? She’s not here’.
“She said, ‘Momo told me to do this’. If she didn’t Momo would tell her off.”
Taking the day off she took her girl to hairdresser Toddler Trims but she wouldn’t stop talking about Momo.
“The stuff she was coming out with was making me sick to the stomach. She couldn’t wait to get back on my phone to see the next challenge.”
The Cheltenham hairdresser posted a warning on Facebook about the game.
“So I’ve just had a beautiful little girl in affected by this sick MOMO challenge!! If you are unaware this sick human/mutant is hacking into peppa pig, fortnight, minecraft etc..
“Any & most children’s YouTube videos, telling them to cut there hair off, hold Knives up to there throat, set themselves on fire & that it will suck all the blood from there body … this little girl is off to the doctors after her new haircut.
“She is five-years-old & still keeps talking about Momo, her mother is absolutely devastated!!
“Thankfully we have managed to give her a cute pixie cut which she loves but still won’t promise me she won’t listen to MOMO again. I couldn’t help but feel this monster has brainwashed her.”
The post has been shared almost 60,000 times in less than 24 hours as fears over the impact such videos are having over children grow.
Earlier reports were of individuals using the character to connect with kids via WhatsApp and then sending instructions for children to harm themselves and even kill themselves.
The mum said that since this incident, the internet has been banned in her household.
She called on other parents to make sure they keep an eye on what their children are up to.
“Keep an eye on what they’re doing online. If you see your child’s behaviour change then ask them what’s’ going on,” she said.
She added: “Thank God it was her hair and not anything else.”
The mother said: “I just want spread awareness but I’m not doing this for any financial gain.”
While she hasn’t spoken to Gloucestershire Constabulary about what happened, she said she would do.
Some parents say their children have been told they will be “killed in their sleep” if they do not contact ‘Momo’, Mirror Online is reporting.
Once the child has connected, the shadowy people behind the ‘Momo’ account can send what they like to the child on WhatsApp.
In some cases the account may threaten to access or release personal photos or information or warn of a “curse” from “Momo”.
The NSPCC says children should not feel pressured into doing anything that makes them feel unsafe.
A spokesperson said: “Children can find it difficult to stand up to peer pressure but they must know it’s perfectly okay to refuse to take part in crazes that make them feel unsafe or scared.
“Parents should talk with their children and emphasise that they can make their own choices and discuss ways of how to say no.
“Reassuring a child that they can still be accepted even if they don’t go along with the crowd will help stop them doing something that could hurt them or make them uncomfortable.”
How to prevent your children from engaging in the Momo challenge
Shortly after a young girl died in Argentina, concerns began to grow about children taking part in the challenge.
Fox Business Network welcomed parenting officer Titania Jordan to the show to share her advice for keeping kids away from Momo.
Although the show aired in 2018, Titania’s advice is still relevant.
She recommends maintaining an open dialogue with your children about what they are doing online and the dangers of viral trends like this one.
She also suggests monitoring the things your children can access on the internet. This includes activating parental controls and checking search history.
There are also reportedly services available to allow parents to monitor WhatsApp.
Knowing the signs of distress in your child is also a huge indicator that something could be going on behind closed doors.
These include falling behind at school, loss of appetite and being agitated after being on their phone.
You can watch the full segment about protecting children from the Momo challenge by clicking here.
Where to get help and what to do if you’re worried about mental health issues
What to do if you feel low
If you’re not feeling yourself, going through a bad time, or are just feeling sad more than usual, it’s possible that you could be experiencing depression or anxiety.
This doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily at risk, there are scales of both, and it could be that you are just experiencing low mood or moderate anxiety.
The most important thing to do is to let people around you know how you’re feeling.
Talking to a partner, family member or friend is essential. They may be able to offer support and can be there for you while you go through a difficult time.
Where can I get help?
You should also go to talk to your GP.
Your GP can help find out if you’re experiencing anxiety, stress and depression.
They can recommend ways to feel better naturally, for example increasing your exercise levels, or can suggest medication and counselling.
They can also refer you on to other mental health services.
Who else can I call?
Let’s Talk is a free NHS service for anyone experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression. It can be contacted on 0800 073 2200 or via www.talk2gether.nhs.uk.
If you feel you need more help, you can call the 2gether NHS Foundation Trust in Gloucestershire direct on 0800 073 2200 to discuss an appointment.
The mental health charity Mind runs a helpline on 0300 123 3393, or 86463 on text.
The Samaritans is also always there for those who have nowhere else to turn.
But it stresses that it’s not just for those who have suicidal thoughts. In fact they say: “Most people who contact us are not suicidal. When you talk to us, we will give you an opportunity to talk about any thoughts or feelings you have, whatever they may be.”
You can call the Samaritans on 116 123.
In Cheltenham, the Suicide Crisis Centre provides vital support. Along with the services at the centre in High Street, Cheltenham, the charity also goes out to visit service users – sometimes staying for hours at a time if they are at high risk of suicide.
To contact the Suicide Crisis Centre, phone 07975 974455 or visit www.suicidecrisis.co.uk
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