We are uncomfortably aware of the difficulty in covering the recent reappearance of the Momo Challenge. This is an online game targeting children via multiple sources. It has been reported to cause both emotional and physical pain to those who engage with it. The discussions around it have also caused upset.
The dilemma is twofold.
Cover the game and give it more oxygen, potentially spreading it further than it may have by itself virally, thereby potentially harming more children.
Or don’t cover it at all, leaving the public in the dark about a potential risk to their children, and missing an opportunity to educate parents and young people on online safety.
Increased coverage over the last number of days has meant there is an increased risk of the Momo game spreading. The challenge is now to make sure all coverage informs the public and gives them the tools to handle these unwelcome threats in a responsible and proactive way. It is therefore extremely important to include information on :
- cyber safety, including statements and advice from experts in the area of children’s online safety
- how to find immediate help, should a child encounter the game, OR be affected by conversations around the game (found at https://www2.hse.ie/get-urgent-help/)
- factual information on suicide and rates among younger populations (found at https://www.nsrf.ie/statistics/)
- research-based warning signs for youth suicide (found at youthsuicidewarningsigns.org)
We also advise limiting the use of the Momo image in thumbnails for links to your content while also limiting the use of disproportionately large versions of the image in the main body of an article.
Please remind readers, viewers and listeners that if a situation requires urgent attention they should contact emergency services at 999.
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), led in Ireland by Prof. Ella Arensman have issued a statement on the situation. You can find it here.