Children’s mental health: Momo challenge is just the tip of the iceberg

By Danielle Wilson

The internet is an ever-growing space for communication and information, but what we know is only the tip of the iceberg.

With the number of children using social media and online games increasing, people are questioning whether more could be done to make the internet a safer place.

Back in October 2018, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock issued an urgent warning of the potential risks to a child’s mental health due to excessive use of social media.

Evidence from Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies’ review, showed that children who spend more than three hours on social media on a school day are twice as likely to have higher scores for mental illness.

From YouTube challenges to predators on online games, there are many things that pose a risk to children of any age.

One threat which has caused both horror and controversy is the recent ‘Momo Challenge’. Posts about the supposed suicide challenge have gone viral on Facebook, and schools across the country have sent out warnings to parents.

A Japanese special effects artist created the picture of ‘Momo’.

Parents have reported that their children are terrified that ‘Momo’ will come to find them if they do not complete tasks that are given to them; these tasks involve self-harm and eventually, suicide. There are no known suicides linked to this challenge.

Although, reports claim that this challenge is a hoax, created purely to spread fear in children and families; as there is no evidence of people receiving texts, phone calls or tasks.

The concept of the ‘Momo Challenge’ is similar to the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ that started in Russia in 2013. This ‘blue whale challenge’ is thought to be the cause of over 16 suicides of teenagers in Russia.

The original creator of the challenge, Philipp Budeikin was convicted in 2016 for two counts of inciting suicide in a minor.

In 2017, popular photo sharing app, Instagram was dubbed the worst for a child’s mental health. Snapchat ranked in as second worst.

Both of these social media platforms are image-focused, and heavy use of these could lead to feelings of not only anxiety in youths, but inadequacy.

Not only social media poses a threat to a child’s safety online. A recent string of seemingly innocent YouTube videos has included explicit footage, exposing children to sexual and violent scenes. Parents who would entertain their children with YouTube videos now have to be extremely careful.

There have always been debates into whether children should be monitored while on the internet, and with the recent fears of dangerous challenges and explicit videos where there shouldn’t be, should parents and authorities be doing more to safeguard our children?

An NSPCC spokeswoman said: “The constantly evolving digital world means a steady influx of new apps and games, which 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.”

So, what can you do to make sure your child is safe online? The NSPCC has guides for many online safety concerns that parents may have. 


If you think a child is in danger online, report it HERE.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Author:  Jason Howie, 

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