In Fairfax County schools, county agencies and families are working together to create an environment where children and youth can safely learn, work, and play. Similar to our message containing information about the 13 Reasons Why NETFLIX program and the Blue Whale Challenge, we are sending this communication to alert you to a recent rise in new games and social media challenges that encourage young people to participate in harmful behavior.
One example of this is a potentially harmful game called the “Momo Challenge” that has reportedly been posted on different social media platforms to include WhatsApp and assigns players a series of progressively more intense tasks, to include self-harm. It is important to note that the Momo Challenge is a hoax that has received a significant amount of media attention.
This hoax has been seen across the United States in recent months, targeting primarily elementary aged children. Vigilant parents and guardians in Fairfax County have also reported seeing information about the Momo Challenge or similar games on their children’s phones and have alerted school authorities.
Please talk to your child about this type of internet hoax, and check his or her phone or other device for signs of an app or communications with anyone telling them to do specific tasks. This provides an excellent opportunity to remind your child of best practices for internet safety and digital citizenship:
- Remind your child information shared on social media is not always true and how quickly misinformation can create a panic online.
- Children should never engage in conversations with strangers online.
- Be aware of the sites and apps your children are using and know their usernames and passwords.
- Turn off suggested autoplay on videos to stop children from viewing content they have not selected, and you have not approved.
- If appropriate, tell your children that Momo is not real and will not hurt them.
- Encourage open dialogue with them around any concerns.
FCPS has additional resources available on this website: https://www.fcps.edu/node/32086. If you have concerns about your child, please contact your school counselor. Please be aware that a number of mental health resources are available, including Fairfax County Public School resources: School Counseling Services at 571-423- 4420, School Psychology Services at 571-423-4250, and School Social Work Services at 571-423-4300 and Fairfax County resources: Crisis Link Hotline at 703-527-4077, Merrifield Emergency Services 703-573-5679 (available 24/7) or Entry and Referral during business hours at 703-383-8500. The Fairfax County Police Department non-emergency number is 703-691-2131.
More information about the Momo Challenge and other internet challenges or hoaxes is available at these links:
- An article from the Ohio Department of Education contains talking points to use when speaking with your child: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Other-Resources/News/Know-Momo-and-her-Deadly-Challenge-to-our-Youth
- An article from Common Sense Media about online challenges: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/viral-youtube-challenges-internet-stunts-popular-with-kids