There is “no confirmed evidence” the ‘Momo Challenge’ poses a threat to children in Britain, a senior government minister said today.
Andrea Leadsom told the House of Commons she was “extremely concerned” about reports of a ‘suicide game’ being aimed at kids.
But she stressed that neither the Samaritans, the NSPCC nor the UK Safer Internet Centre have found confirmed evidence of a risk.
She added “more needs to be done” in a wider sense to protect children from bullying or self-harm content online.
Senior Tory MP Ms Leadsom is the Leader of the Commons and attends Cabinet meetings in 10 Downing Street.
It comes after schools sent warnings to parents over fears children were being hounded on social media with frightening messages and told to self-harm.
‘Momo’ is said to refer to a haunting character with bulging eyes used to contact children online.
St Bedes RC Primary School in Carlisle, Cumbria, told parents that it poses a “serious risk” to children’s safety.
But YouTube insisted it has “not received any recent evidence” of the reported challenge appearing in children’s videos.
A YouTube spokesperson told the DailyDot: “Contrary to press reports, we’ve not received any recent evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on YouTube.
“Content of this kind would be in violation of our policies and removed immediately.”
Organisations told The Guardian they had not received any confirmed evidence that the phenomenon was posing a risk to British children, branding it a “moral panic” and “fake news”.
And today a number of charities and organisations united to issue a statement announcing they will no longer name the phenomenon.
The joint statement by the Professional Online Safety Helpline, Childline, NSPCC, Childnet, Internet Matters and Samaritans said: “There is a lot in the news and discussions in communities about alleged risky/dangerous online games/challenges.
“In consultation and collectively with other child safety organisations we are taking the approach of not naming such services/images.
“But we do want to make people aware of services they can use if they do have any safeguarding concerns:
An NSPCC Scotland spokesperson said: “The constantly evolving digital world means a steady influx of new apps and games and can be hard for parents to keep track of.
“That’s why it’s important for parents to talk regularly with children about these apps and games and the potential risks they can be exposed to.
“The NSPCC publishes advice and guidance for parents on discussing online safety with their children, as well as Net Aware – the UK’s only parental guide to social media and gaming apps.”
The issue was raised in the House of Commons chamber today by Tory MP Douglas Ross.
He said: “I’ve been contacted by constituents in Moray concerned about the growing participation in something called the Momo Challenge.
“This is where young people can be watching various social media platforms and messages pop up urging them to contact a number on WhatsApp which then sends some images and instructions on how to harm themselves and others.
“And unfortunately in some parts of the world this Momo Challenge has been linked to young people taking their own lives.
“So can we have a debate and allow the government to explain what more we can do to protect and educate young people about the scourge of these online dangers.”
Senior minister Andrea Leadsom replied: “He is raising an appalling situation. The Momo Challenge – something I’ve also heard of – is one the government is extremely concerned about.
“We’ve been very clear that more needs to be done to protect young people online, including from cyber-bullying and suicide and self-harm content.
“And internet companies do have a responsibility to their users.”
She said a new Online Harms White Paper will contain laws and rules to keep UK users safe online.
She added: “But what I can say to him is in the case of Momo, organisations including the Samaritans, the NSPCC and the Safer Internet Centre have said that there is no confirmed evidence that the Momo phenomenon is posing a threat to British children.”
- Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org