The so-called “Momo Challenge,” a recent internet challenge that supposedly drives children and teenagers to commit increasingly-dangerous and heinous acts, has reportedly led to two kids in Colombia taking their own lives, The New Zealand Herald is reporting.
In the “Momo Challenge,” users make contact with a person role-playing as “Momo,” a hideous being based on the real-life artwork of Japanese artist Midori Hayashi. Using WhatsApp or a similar social media or messaging app, the person role-playing as “Momo” gives the users commands – and sometimes hacks their mobile devices. The commands reportedly get more heinous and more dangerous, until the final challenge, during which the role-player supposedly shames the user into committing suicide.
The artist, however, is in no way affiliated with the game.
So far, users role-playing as “Momo” have been tied to accounts in Mexico and Colombia, although there could be tens of thousands of such role-players all around the world.
This week, in the Colombian town of Barbosa, a 12-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy allegedly played the “game” to its conclusion and took their own lives, according to local media reports. Supposedly, the boy introduced the girl to the game; they were both dead within 48 hours of each other.
Janier Londoño, government secretary of Barbosa in the Antioquia region, described the game.
“Young people are accessing it, the game has several challenges, they are accessing them and in the end it leads to suicide to finish the game.”
The game is also supposedly tied to the suicide of a teenage girl in Argentina.
As is often the case with these viral trends among teenagers, it can often be difficult to sort out the truth from scaremongering and shoddy journalism. For example, a year or so ago, the “Tide Pod Challenge,” during which internet users supposedly filmed themselves eating Tide pods, was the subject of breathless headlines about the dangers of eating the brightly-colored detergent pods. However, despite the salacious coverage of the challenge, the number of people who actually consumed Tide pods was only in the low dozens, according to Time.
That hasn’t stopped a couple of governments from outright banning the game, however. Pakistan, for example, has banned the game, according to Minister Dr. Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui.
“These games don’t have any place in Pakistan which convince youth to commit suicide to get rid of its miseries.”
It is not clear, as of this writing, whether any suicides reportedly linked to the “Momo Challenge” have occurred in the United States.