Stay away from MOMO

Sejal Gupta
Monday, 27 August 2018

Nowadays, youngsters fall prey to challenges on social media platforms because they think it’s cool to do weird stuff. But often these involve violent or life-threatening tasks.

After Blue Whale Challenge which claimed the lives of several teenagers, Momo Challenge has turned into a nightmare for youngsters and parents across the globe. If you think Momo Challenge has something to do with momos, let us tell you that it has nothing to do with food. In fact, the deadly challenge has been linked to the death of a 12-year-old girl in Argentina and a std X student in Ajmer, Rajasthan, closer home. Recently, the suicide of two youngsters in West Bengal after receiving invitations to join the online killer game has also raised an alarm.   

Momo Challenge is a form of cyberbullying that spreads through social media and cell phones. After the victims are enticed to contact an anonymous account with a grotesque image of a doll, youngsters are asked to perform tasks which involve challenges that encourage them to engage in a series of violent acts and threatens them if they fail to do so.  

We talk to a few students to know why youngsters should keep away from risky / life-threatening challenges:  
Paras Rawat, a std XII student of Lexicon School, Wagholi, pursuing Astrophysics, thinks that one needs to find out why people are coming up with such challenges. “Why are people so excited to ruin others’ lives for amusement? About the people who are taking up such challenges, they just want to prove that it’s possible to finish a challenge which involves a lot of risks, and the tougher the challenge, the better the reward. It’s important to get young minds out of this habit,” he says. The Momo Challenge reportedly started on Facebook where members were challenged to communicate with an unknown number.

Rawat further raises the important issue of ‘self harm’ that most teenagers fall prey to because of social media. “Today’s teenagers feel that being weird is the new cool, hence they are attracted to such challenges. They would do anything which makes them look different from others. By trying to take up these risky challenges, they try to prove they are special,” Rawat quips.  

“On the one hand, some youngsters are scaling new heights in academics and on the other, teenagers are playing such games and risking their lives and mental health. It is heartbreaking and disappointing. People creating such games are doing so for the sheer thrill and power of getting to control others. Everyone wants to play god,” says Tanisha Nerurkar, a std XII student of Ness Wadia College of Commerce, adding, that it is extremely important to be aware of such risky challenges. 

“As a developing country, we need young, enthusiastic people who can lead our country towards a better future. One can take up a challenge like learning an instrument or developing a hobby which will not only divert their mind from such risky challenges but will also help in personality development. These self-harming tendencies are increasing because teens think that it helps them show off their strength. Maybe proper knowledge and professional guidance about such stuff will help teens understand that self harm is not a joke or an activity that they should be engaging in,” she says. 

Disha Khandelwal, a std XII student of The Bishop’s School, Camp, says that these challenges scare her to the point that she doesn’t even search them  online. “I heard that your smart phone can get a virus even if you search these challenges online, let alone installing them!” she says adding, “A lot of youngsters are into depression and anxiety nowadays. Even small situations can lead them to believing that they’re depressed. Due to this wrong mindset, people are resorting to self-harm. This shows how weak they are, because they can’t handle small setbacks in their lives.”

Be Smart, Be Safe
Manas Krishna, cyber security analyst and professor, shares some safety tips: 
- Since the Momo Challenge is not a harmless prank, don’t support it. It is a digital threat and could be life-threatening. If you find something fishy, report it or get help. 
- Do not spread/ forward messages with scary images, or information about how to take part in the challenge.  
- Do not accept requests from unknown profiles on social media. If you find anything fishy about the profiles, make a point to report it. Keep all social media profiles private and do not upload any private information like phone numbers, addresses, email ids.
- Block and delete any number that you are not familiar with. 
- If you come across someone who you believe may be actively participating in such challenges, confront them or get help from friends or family.

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